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Filipino seafarer jobs in EU at risk over compliance, says agency

European Maritime Safety Agency has raised several questions regarding the Philippines’ maritime education, training and certification system

Head of the Philippines’ maritime agency says any deficiencies are being addressed and are not grounds for potential job losses of Filipino seafarers

THE jobs of up to 56,000 Filipino seafarers serving on board European Union ships could be at risk because of required standards of training, according to the head of the Philippines’ government maritime agency.

Maritime Industry Authority administrator Robert Empedrad said several issues and questions had been raised by the European Maritime Safety Agency on his country’s maritime education, training and certification system.

The European Union agency conducted an audit of maritime higher education institutions and assessment centres in the Philippines in 2020.

The audit was designed to establish if training providers were meeting the requirements of the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping requirements.

A failure to comply would put thousands of seafarer jobs at risk as the EU would no longer recognise Filipino certificates of competence.

An EMSA report following its audit was presented to the Maritime Industry Authority last December. It identified nine shortcomings and 23 grievances in the country’s system of maritime education and training and certification system.

Any withdrawal of recognition of Filipino seafarers could lead to a loss of access to jobs in the EU, Mr Empedrad said in an interview.

“I estimate that up to 56,000 Filipino seafarers, most of them officers, may be adversely affected,” he said. “And this is of major concern to us because they’re mostly very experienced and have been performing well overall, with no major mishaps that I recall involving Filipino seafarers over the past three years.”

He noted that shipowners employ manning agencies which can easily determine and certify the competence or lack of it of Filipino seafarers, especially those with many years of work experience.

Mr Empedrad has acknowledged various deficiencies in the Philippines’ maritime education and training but added his agency and other government bodies are vigorously addressing and rectifying those issues.

His agency this month submitted a 232-page report that outlined measures that the government has already implemented to address and rectify the issues identified by EMSA.

“The measures include strategic initiatives, supported by factual evidence, and are presented with a precise calendar of their adoption and entry into force,” he added.

He acknowledged that one of the significant issues that EMSA has identified was the proliferation of maritime schools in the Philippines and the inability of some to provide students with adequate training facilities after they have completed their academic education.

There were 90 maritime schools across the country in 2017, compared with 52 in 2014. The number has since been trimmed to 85, but there is a need to further streamline the number via consolidation to ensure quality education, said Mr Empedrad.

“We are ready any time to engage EMSA and senior EU maritime officials to thrash out whatever concerns they have and find amicable solutions to them,” he said.

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