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European hiring of seafarers ongoing amid concerns over training standards

THE Transportation department said on Thursday that European ship operators continue to hire seafarers from the Philippines even amid concerns raised about their standard of training.

“In one of the Cabinet meetings a few weeks ago, it was reported to the President that there was a finding by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) that the Philippines did not comply with some of the standards relating to certification, training, and watchkeeping,” Department of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said during a virtual briefing.

He said that President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. ordered the EMSA findings to be addressed “so that we will be compliant and prevent blacklisting of our seafarers.”

“It’s important to tell you that we should not be alarmed by this because we did not fail the audit,” he added.

Various agencies, including Maritime Industry Authority, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Migrant Workers, Department of Labor and Employment, and Philippine Coast Guard, are now working to address the audit results, Mr. Bautista noted.

He said Filipino seafarers continue to be hired by shipping companies in Europe despite the concerns about training standards. “I have met with many shipping companies and manning companies and patuloy pa rin ang pag-e-employ ng ating mga seafarer (our seafarers continue to be employed).”

The Transportation department has approached various European governments to assure them of the government’s commitment to raise training standards, according to Mr. Bautista.

Sabi nga namin sa mga ambassadors (We told the ambassadors), we will continue to give you an update on what the Philippine government, through the different agencies, are doing para ma-maintain natin ang ating membership (to maintain our membership) with the International Maritime Organization and patuloy tayong magpadala ng seafarers sa Europe (and continue to deploy seafarers to Europe),” he noted.

The European Union (EU) has advised the Philippines to enhance its efforts to comply with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers convention.

Following an inspection conducted in 2020, the European Commission notified the Philippines of a number of deficiencies — including serious ones — in education, training, and certification.

The EU had noted “inconsistencies… in relation to the competencies covered by the education and training programs leading to the issuing of officers’ certificates, as well as in several approved programs regarding teaching and examination methods, facilities and equipment.”

“Inconsistencies have also been identified in the monitoring of inspections and evaluations of the schools. In addition, there have been concerning findings as regards simulators and on-board training,” it added. — Arjay L. Balinbin