The Philippine maritime industry is a significant contributor to the country’s economy, and its role as such can be sustained if its various sectors and subsectors, as well as regulatory and supervising agencies, can adapt to the changing times and keep up with the latest, performance-improving innovations and modern technologies.
There are three major maritime sectors that would benefit from modernization, automation and other evolving technologies: shipping, shipbuilding and ship repair, and maritime manpower. Other sectors, such as ports and harbors and container and freight companies—whose work and services are complementary and interrelated to the three sectors—should be able to implement parallel programs and synchronized activities leading to a more harmonious and productive collaboration with them. This would be the apt response to the rising demand for more efficient and appropriate services.
Depending on the types and sizes of the vessels, there are many modernization programs being implemented in the industry. In recent years, massive ships appear as if shipbuilders are trying to outdo each other with newer models and designs year after year. This corresponds to the growing automation and containerization that came out of the need for fast, safe and timely loading of goods and dispatch of cargo vessels to various destinations, even to the most remote corners of the world. These modern vessels are constructed by the world’s best craftsmen and boat builders in the best shipyards.
There is also an increase in the building of specialized ships, which require trained manpower that possesses specialized skills and the knowledge to handle them.
Modernizing domestic shipping
Maritime safety and security remain critical issues in the Philippines, where millions of people rely on inter-island passenger shipping lines to take them from one island to another. These are apart from the cargo ships needed to transport goods to sustain the nation’s trade and economic activities.
Maximum efforts should be exerted to ensure the seaworthiness of passenger and cargo ships. However, based on statistics, smaller vessels that operate in the roll-on/roll-off terminal system include secondhand class cargo ships that were converted into passenger-and-cargo vessels. Since they are used for purposes other than what they were originally intended for, their safety and security features are sometimes compromised.
The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), which has regulatory and supervisory functions, believes that this would be addressed by its ship modernization program.
Based on the statistics Marina compiled, about 20 major maritime accidents involving passenger-carrying ships were recorded between 2009 and 2014. What is more noticeable is that 19 of these vessels were imported as secondhand ships and only one was built locally. To assist shipping companies in replenishing their fleet with modern vessels, as well as to help the local shipbuilding business flourish, Marina and other relevant agencies, including financial institutions, created a financing program to support and encourage the construction of new ships at local shipyards. The participating sectors shall have access to the subsidy included in the program.
C/E Michael Armamento has extensive seafaring experience and is now connected with various shipping and shipping management offices in various capacities, such as president, director and member of technical committees. He said the companies he belongs to provides adequate crewing, quality inspection, survey and other services that meet clients’ criteria, as well as industry and government regulations related to occupational health, safety, security, environment protection, commercial and quality standards.
According to him, the full implementation of the Marina memorandum circular on the replacement of local wooden hull bancas with steel, fiber glass or composite types will significantly improve safety in domestic travel.
Automation and digitization
The world’s more sophisticated shipping companies have automated most, if not all of their processes, in both their off- and onshore operations. They are able to do so because they can afford to buy modern and sophisticated technology and infrastructure, like satellite communication facilities. Some of them are even now into blockchain technology, minimizing the need for third-party certification and verification of transactions.
Documentation in shipping is tedious. The wife of a master in an oil tanker said that whenever her husband’s ship is about to dock, he lamented that he was tied up with paperwork and would even skip his rest period just to finish them on time. This is especially true for short-haul trips, during which he has less time to take care of the paperwork. In this regard, satellite connections in ships can ease administrative work, as officers and crew members can communicate, even if they’re far from shore.
In the Philippines, while a more sophisticated and faster internet access may not be possible right now, the maritime sectors, as well as relevant agencies, can make do with adequate software and hardware systems to automate their processes. They can implement online systems for certification, verification procedures, and other simple transactions.
Even some of the required training and education programs can be made accessible through e-learning and simulation courses.
One of the greatest breakthroughs in the maritime industry is green shipping. The country’s efforts on the subject include activities sponsored by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In February, under its Global Maritime Energy Efficiency Partnership project with the United Nations Development Program and the Global Environment Facility, IMO sponsored a workshop participated in by 30 maritime educators.
The workshop—the second of its kind in Asia—aimed to equip them with knowledge on ship-energy efficiency, which they can include in their curriculum. Once Filipino crews are trained through lectures, videos and interactive exercises, they are expected to have the necessary knowledge to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
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