Pinoy seafarers upset and alarmed
The Maritime Industry Authority’s (Marina) decision to replace the regular Seaman’s Book with a piece of paper will surely cause some 500,000 Filipino seamen, especially those embarking for the first time, to face problems with their shipping company, employers and immigration authorities abroad.
Marina had to make the decision because it ran out of the Philippine Seafarers Identification and Record Books (SIRB), which is colloquially referred to all over the world as “the Seaman’s Book.”
Marina Administrator Maximo Mejia issued an advisory authorizing the issuance of the “Philippine Seafarers Identification Record Sheet [SIRS].”
“Please be informed that in view of the disruption in the supply and schedule of deliveries to replenish our depleted stocks of Philippine Seafarers Identification and Record Books [SIRB], notice is hereby given that the Maritime Industry Authority shall be issuing the Philippine Seafarers Identification Record Sheet [SIRS] in lieu of the SIRB,” the memorandum read.
“Please be advised that all entries related to sea service in the SIRS are required to be filled up by the ship’s officers. In accordance with the Maritime rules and regulations, sea service entries shall serve as reference of this Authority during the application for renewal of the SIRB by any Filipino seafarer,” it added.
The SIRS is good for one year.
Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers, said this is the first time in the entire world and only in the Philippines that a government maritime agency issued a piece of paper instead of the “book.”
The Seaman’s Book, Ramirez said, is vital and essential to a seaman when boarding a vessel for work.
Ramirez and his fellow members of the largest seaman’s union condemned the latest problem at the Maritime Industry Authority.
The problem plaguing seamen since time immemorial has been the long hours of queuing up to get their Seaman’s Books. Now to those woes has been added—the unavailability of the SIRB and the issuance to them of a document that immigration authorities and sea captains will be seeing for the first time in their careers.
“This shows the Marina management’s incompetence or lack of concern for us seamen,” Ramirez said in Tagalog.
“We seamen are worried that when we reach other countries to board the vessels we have found jobs in, we will not be allowed to leave the airport to go to the port where our ship is,” Ramirez explained. “The authorities in the foreign country will find our Marina pieces of paper strange and unfamiliar. Then, if we can get to our ships, the captains may not allow us to embark.”
“This is the first time in the whole world that seamen carry sheets of paper instead of the passport looking Seaman’s Book. Only in the Philippines,” Ramirez added.
He said seamen usually start queuing before midnight, long before the agency opens at 8 a.m. the next day.
Mejia had vowed to end the suffering of the seamen because of these long lines.
The seamen also have to secure a Certificate of Proficiency from Marina, which also takes a long time to obtain.
Ramirez vowed to lead a protest rally against the new system next week. He received overwhelming support from seamen and other Filipinos in Facebook, Twitter and other social media.
The Philippines is the number one supplier of world class seamen across the globe. Some say that the Greek shipping industry, one of the world’s largest, would stand still without Filipino seamen.