Filipino Government Urged to Look Into Seafarers’ Plight

By Pia Lee-Brago, The Philippine Star

Posted at 04/21/2014 9:26 AM | Updated as of 04/21/2014 9:26 AM
MANILA – A group of Filipino seafarers urged the government to look into the plight of thousands of seafarers who stand to lose their jobs following the country’s failure to comply with the European Union’s maritime safety and education standards.

In a statement, the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) blamed the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA)’s mismanagement and lack of concern for the sorry state of Filipino seamen.

“As a result of the country’s failure in two audits by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), education and training certificates issued by the Philippine government to seafarers will soon no longer be honored by EU ship owners and regulators,” UFS president Nelson Ramirez said.

The Philippines failed in the audit conducted last year by EU’s EMSA on the quality of maritime education, training and competency certificates issued by the government to Filipino seafarers.

The audits were in compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention.

“It is something that cannot be negotiated. It is a technical issue, and what the EU was doing was regular verification or audit of the state of technical and legal preparedness of seafarers’ education system in countries which have seafarers working on EU-flagged ships,” EU Transport Commissioner Maximilian Strotmann told The STAR.

Ramirez said MARINA’s weak leadership has compromised the livelihood of about 80,000 seafarers currently serving on EU-flagged vessels with the imminent cancellation of their SCTW certificates.

“The future looks dim. We have been calling the attention of MARINA to improve maritime education, but we are being ignored,” he added.

Seafarers have also complained of long lines at the MARINA office when securing their certificates of proficiency, the proliferation of bogus-Marina certificates, and the replacement of a seaman’s book with a sheet of paper to be presented to maritime authorities abroad.

He said the UFS is now leading an online petition calling for the resignation of MARINA chief Max Mejia for his alleged failure to act on seafarers’ problems.

“The UFS hopes to get one million ‘shares’ and one million ‘likes’ of the petition which will be presented to President Aquino and the public in a rally,” Ramirez said.