The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) will grant pioneer status to ships classed by the International Associations of Classification Societies (IACS) and provide incentives for domestic shipowners and operators.

Marina Administrator Robert Empedrad approved Memorandum Circular No. DS-2021-03, or the "Revised rules and regulations in the grant of pioneer status under Executive Order 909," to provide safer sea transport and improve shipping services.

"To qualify for the pioneer status, a ship must be classed by an IACS, be a newly-constructed ship built abroad or in a Marina-licensed shipyard, and must be fully manned by qualified Filipino officers and crew," he said.

IACS is recognized as the principal technical advisor of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). It provides a quality system certification scheme (QSCS) that its members comply with, as an assurance of professional integrity and maintenance of high professional standards.

Marina said new and existing domestic shipowners or operators who will introduce IACS-classed brand new or newly-constructed ships in their respective authorized or applied routes will be granted "pioneer status." This covers all domestic shipowners or operators that intend to invest in roll-on roll-off (RoRo), RoRo -passenger vessels, cargo, and other ships that have been designed and constructed, and maintained by IACS.

A pioneer status will be granted to ships that are maintained for six years of route protection and must possess an existing certificate of public convenience (CPC).

The applications for the "pioneer status" can be applied at any of the Marina Regional Offices (MROs) where the ship's existing CPC is issued.

The domestic ships that have been granted to operate pioneer status routes are given incentives such as non-transferrable route protection valid for six years. These ships will be charged only 50% of the regular fees in all applications, renewals of ship documents, licenses, certificates, and permits, and an annual tonnage fee (ATF) for six years. They are also given priority in the issuance of CPCs in the routes it proposes to operate.

The ship's operator must be a Marina-accredited maritime entity and an existing CPC grantee. The documentary requirements include a letter of intent, an IACS-classed certificate, a builder's certificate, and proof of payment for the processing fee per ship.

The implementation of this circular is one step towards Marina's efforts in upholding the Maritime Industry Development Plan (MIDP), specifically in addressing the "upgrade of domestic shipping in support of the Philippine Nautical Highway Development." Marina continues to explore more avenues for the modernization and upgrades of the existing domestic merchant fleet.