The Philippines has been the “main factory” of seafarers in the world. In 2013, it has been estimated that Filipino seafarers reach almost 500,000 worldwide. The seafarers “factory” is now at risk as there is a possibility that the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) would withdraw the recognition of Philippine certificates.
A withdraw in recognition by the EMSA would mean that around 80,000 Filipino seamen could lose their job aboard European Union flagged-vessels. It could also lead to a domino effect that other countries could derecognize the credentials of our beloved seafarers. The economic effect of a ban would be catastropic. According to Marina-7 director Nanette Dinopol the effect of the ban would be a loss at least $1 billion in annual foreign exchange remittances. If this ban pushes through, other sectors like real estate, banking, employment, retail, education, and politics will be severely affected.
The foreign exchange remittances of OFWs like seafarers has been the lifeblood in the booming retail industry in the country. More Filipinos have been buying cars, insurance, properties, and luxury goods because of the increase purchasing power brought by the money sent to the country by OFWs. If the EU pushes through with the ban, the country’s GDP will surely go down. It could also have adverse effects in the inflation, interest rates, and foreign exchange.
The main concern of EMSA is the country’s lack of compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention. In November 22, 2010, the EMSA withdrew its accreditation of seafarers from Georgia. The seamen from Georgia were only able to get jobs in European Union vessels last year after Georgia passed an audit in 2012.
Reforms are needed in the maritime industry as well as the maritime training institutions in the country. The present government has made strides in reforming and legislating to enable the country’s seafarers to enjoy opportunities in Europe but it has not yet been satisfactory in the eyes of the European Maritime Safety Agency.
Cebu has been a hotbed of seafarers. The University of Cebu has been one of the country’s top producers of maritime graduates. Many Cebuanos are working as officers and seamen in many vessels around the world. It is important that Cebuanos in the maritime industry and other related fields should help fast track the country’s compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention.
The EMSA will make another audit in October 2014.