Pinoy seafarer jobs at risk from EU audit on maritime schools

File photo: A large group of Filipino seafarers attend a pre-boarding briefing at the Maritime Industry Authority in Manila.

THE European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union bloc, has found a number of “serious” flaws in the seafarers’ training of Philippine maritime schools which could make tens of thousands of Filipino seafarers jobless if the Philippine maritime industry fails to correct these in 42 days.

“Following an inspection conducted in 2020, the European Commission notified the Philippines of a number of deficiencies, including serious ones, identified in the Philippine seafarers’ education, training and certification system, which fails to guarantee that the requirements of the STCW Convention are met,” the EU Delegation to the Philippines told the BusinessMirror.

The STCW is short for International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping, the international standard for seafarers required before they are allowed to board commercial ships, ferries, cruise ships or superyachts and be given the seaman’s book.

Without going through specifics, the European Delegation in Manila identified some of the highlights of the findings of the EC and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA):

  • “Inconsistencies” in relation to competences covered by the education and training programs leading to the issuing of officers’ certificates;
  • “Inconsistencies” in several approved programs regarding teaching and examination methods;
  • “Inconsistencies” in the monitoring of inspections and evaluations of the schools; and
  • “Concerning findings” on simulators and on-board training

The EC and EMSA have been auditing Philippine compliance with international standards when certifying if a Filipino is competent to be a seafarer. This is to ensure that all crew of the ships owned by the EU member-states adhere to the international standards on basic safety training course.

“Maritime safety is of utmost importance for the EU, in particular the seafarers’ education and training,” the EU delegation said.

The results of the EMSA and EC audit were sent to the Philippine government during the second half of December 2021 and the Philippines is required to reply within two months, or not later than March 10, 2022. This is apparently the last chance given to the Philippine maritime schools and training centers to shape up after the EC and EMSA have repeatedly given them failing marks on STCW compliance since 2006.

“In case of a negative assessment, the European Union might eventually withdraw the recognition of the Philippines STCW system and, therefore, the certificates for masters and officers delivered by the Philippine maritime schools,” the EU Delegation said.

The EU Delegation added that if the Philippine STCW is not recognized, “existing certificates for masters and officers would continue to be recognized until the time of their natural expiry.”

Only “new” STCW certificates would not be recognized to work on EU flagged ships, it added.

Industry estimates put the number of Filipino seafarers around the world at 300,000-350,000 at any given time, with an average deployment of 30,000-35,000 a month. They remitted $6.539 billion or around P326.95 billion in 2019. Around 50,000 Filipinos work in European-flagged state vessels, the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) estimates.

“We are of course aware of the significant contribution of seafarers to the Filipino economy. Filipino seafarers are equally important to us since about one out of five foreign seafarers on EU-flagged ships is Filipino,” the EU Delegation added.

Still, the EU Delegation hopes that by March 10, the Philippine maritime industry would pull a last-minute miracle and conduct “necessary internal reforms and requirements” that would “fully comply” with the STCW Convention.

Marina Administrator Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad had earlier said he is confident they would be able to convince the EC of the reforms that they will undertake in correcting all the negative findings in the EMSA audit.

“The European Commission is committed to continue to work in partnership with the Philippines to address the STCW,” the EU Delegation said.

Image credits: Nonie Reyes

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