RP Crewing Sector
in Distress 1
By Andy Dalisay
Philstar, 23 August 2001

"Our industry is in distress. We are dying slowly. If we are to save (it), we have to move now…"

This is now the president of the country's largest manning association Filipino Association for Mariner's Employment (FAME) describes the state of the country's ship manning sector, which other nationals have begun to take over.

FAME president Vicente Aldanese has cited several reasons that have been blamed for the industry's sad plight in his paper delivered during a recent workshop of the Philippine Seafarers Promotion Council (PSPC). These reasons include the low quality of maritime education, disparity in wage levels, and claims suits filed in both local and foreign courts, among others.

Faced with a four percent shortfall in the supply of officers in the world market or 12 percent by year 2010, time contract frequencies of Filipino seafarers have ironically been declining. This means that foreign principals are now sourcing their manpower requirements elsewhere, Aldanese said.

The newly formed PSPC, which aims to unite the industry into a cluster to pursue a new vision and strategic plan, said that the country's crewing industry has "evolved into a complex bureaucracy which makes the cost of doing business inefficient."

"Today the industry is at the crossroads and in decline," says James E. Nicoll, one of the directors of FAME, noting that the statement is at odd with "official statistics" being released by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

While seafarers can be deployed three or even four times a year bolstering the deployment figure, which is not an indicator of actual jobs, the trend of onboard jobs indicate an increase in the entry of cruise vessels but a decline in other types of ships.

Nicolls, who is also the director of Wallem Maritime Inc., agreed that claims and bureaucratic red tape are two of the major reasons why foreign owners have started to choose non-Filipinos in their feet.

Four years ago Wallem had no vessels manned by Chinese seafarers. Today Wallem has 14 ships fully crewed by Chinese nationals that comprised 300 jobs on board whom Nicoll says half of it used to be taken or occupied by Filipino crew.

High profile lawsuits have cast an unfavorable image of Filipino seafarers as troublemakers who do not honor their contracts.

"It is too easy for seafarers to file cases without any merit or substantial basis. Not only that but they can be rewarded for it by a decision in their favor," Nicoll said. "It is even said that some such lawyers file cases without the knowledge of the seafarer and pocket the entire proceeds should the case be decided against the shipowner."

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