Pinoy seafarers not afraid of EU ban — Labor chief

Filipino seafarers are not threatened by a looming employment ban by the European Union against them for not complying with certain maritime standards, the Labor chief said Tuesday.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the demand is “still high" for Filipino seafarers even though the Lisbon-based European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) intends to revoke the “Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping" or STCW certificates of maritime schools in the Philippines by August 2011.

EMSA is an EU agency charged with reducing the risks in maritime accidents, marine pollution from ships, and loss of human lives at sea.

The EU has been appealing to maritime institutions in the Philippines — one of the major suppliers of seafarers worldwide — to implement reforms in the quality of their instructors and courses.

Filipino mariners account for 30 percent of about 1.2 million seamen worldwide, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration records showed.

The warning from the EU came after a Philippine government forecast said the global requirement for sailors will grow 50 percent with the aging international pool in the maritime industry, Baldoz said.

“The good thing [about] this [impending EU ban] is that the maritime industry from around the world has even coordinated with us… to boost our pool of officers," she said.

Because of the aging captains from countries such as Japan and Europe, some shipping companies are sponsoring the training of some Filipino seafarers, she added.

Efforts to improve the system

On the other hand, Baldoz said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has intensified its inspection of maritime schools that resulted in clamping down some fly-by-night institutions.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) also revamped the technical assessment of maritime schools, and proposed the creation of a single pool of assessors and seafarers.

The reforms initiated by CHED and TESDA are among the reports the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will submit to EMSA by next month.

“We have already finished the report on compliances through an inter-agency committee [ DOLE, CHED, TESDA, Professional Regulation Commission, and Maritime Industry Authority], Baldoz said.

After the reports are consolidated, Baldoz said the committee and the EMSA team will hold a video conference during which the Philippines will report that on its compliance status with the EU agency's requirements, she added. — JE/VS, GMA News

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