Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Senate introduces reforms to maritime industry to prevent blacklisting of Filipino seafarers
MANILA-Alarmed by the report of possible blacklisting of Filipino seafaring officers by the European Union, Senate President Franklin M. Drilon urged the swift passage of a bill which seeks to transfer all functions pertaining to training and certification of over 400,000 Filipino seafarers to one central agency, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).
In his sponsorship speech, Drilon warned over possible repercussions of the country’s failure to comply with the 2010 Manila Amendments to the “1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention).
At present, the STCW functions are lodged in various agencies such as the Philippine Regulatory Commission, Commission of Higher Education, Department of Science and Technology, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and National Telecommunication Commission.
The present practice, according to Drilon, is not consistent with the STCW Convention. “Our seafarers face an imminent threat that, if not addressed urgently, will in all likelihood capsize our maritime industry,” said Drilon.
It can be recalled that the European Union (EU) has recently expressed its inclination to blacklist Filipino seafarers from EU-flagged vessels, blaming the country’s unsatisfactory and incomplete observance of the STCW Convention. The STCW Convention sets the global minimum qualifications for masters, officers and watch personnel engaged in international shipping.
The Senate chief said that employment bans on Filipino seafarers would cause sizeable damage to the Philippine economy: “We have to remember that remittances from sea-based workers – which reached $5 billion in 2012 and for this year alone, is already worth $1.2 billion – keep our economy afloat by fueling domestic consumption, preventing foreign exchange instability, and serving as a buffer against inflation of the peso.”
He added that the blacklisting by the EU could “terribly upset” the country’s position in the global maritime professional industry, and “would negatively affect the estimated 400,000 Filipino sea-based workers employed worldwide.”
“There is a need to align our maritime regulatory system with the international standards and practices,” he added.
To prevent such ban and its negative consequences from happening, the Senate Bill No. 2043 seeks to consolidate the functions relating to the country’s compliance with the SCTW Convention in one agency which is the MARINA.
“The Senate Bill No. 2043 will address the aforementioned concerns through the introduction of major structural changes to our maritime regulatory system that will address the inefficiencies in the current scheme and will therefore ensure our country’s complete compliance with the STCW Convention,” explained Drilon.
“By designating the MARINA as the sole maritime administrative agency empowered to enact uniform rules and regulations governing global maritime professionals and to regularly monitor our conformity with the STCW Convention, we can now meet standards and avert employment bans,” Drilon said.
Drilon then called for the measure’s swift passage, explaining that the urgent implementation of SBN 2043 will “positively influence” the ongoing audit report being prepared by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which will determine if the country is indeed in conformity to the STCW Convention.
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