Decision day looms for Filipino seafarers

On 23 April the EU Committee on Safety of Sea (COSS) will meet to decide on the possible ban of Filipino seafarers. This possible ban follows the submission of a report by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to the European Council on the ability of the Filipino authority to meet its obligations under the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention. This subject was discussed at length within INTERTANKO’s Human Element in Shipping Committee (HEiSC).

The report from EMSA contains several areas of criticism of the Filipino administration including:

Quality Standards System
EMSA: Could find only limited evidence of its implementation
Response: the QSS has not been fully implemented as it has only been running for less than 6 months

Programme and course approval
EMSA: Concerns raised over management level courses. No consistency in delivery
Response: New syllabi developed and being implemented

Monitoring and evaluation of training and assessment
EMSA: Non-uniform assessment of the monitoring activities. Different evaluators would find different results
Response: More uniform training

Maritime education and training institutions
EMSA: Some institutions using very easy questions (less than challenging)
Response: Cracking down on standards

If a ban did take place, and all stakeholders have stated that the Philippines is not too big to fail, Members can start to undertake a series of contingency plans. These are contained within a broader background document which can be downloaded here.

The possible de-recognition is a serious issue for the industry and the consequences would be significant. The consequence of the most concern would be the loss of experienced officers from the industry. Many companies have taken the time and effort to train seafarers in their systems as well as undertaking considerable additional training and this would all be for nought and the industry would lose well-trained, competent officers who would need to be replaced with less-experienced ones. A safety impact could well be expected in addition to an inability to meet the requirements of the crewing matrix.

One possible outcome is that there be no ban, which would require the downgrading of deficiencies to observations. This could be achieved with technical assistance from EU Member States, and is in line with the EC Directive (2008/106/EC) which only allows for the recognition or withdrawal of recognition of national maritime education and training systems, and not a partial ban. Such technical assistance would be in line with the recommendation of the November 2012 report where it states that:

‘Since one of the main obstacles for the Philippines to achieve STCW compliance is the lack of technical qualified human resources in charge of school-monitoring, Member States might be willing to assist the authorities in developing the needed capacity in this field’. 

It is understood that a number of countries have offered assistance and the Philippines administration has also asked for this help.

INTERTANKO strongly supports the adherence to all safety regulations as well as full compliance with all international instruments. Therefore, we welcome the auditing and subsequent upgrading of the training systems in place in the Philippines. The Philippines government and administration have taken great strides in responding fully and living up to the obligations of the Convention. Wherever we can, INTERTANKO and its HEiSC stands ready to assist them in their endeavours.

Contact: Phil Belcher