The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), which assists the European Commission (EC) in monitoring maritime safety compliance has raised some concerns on the quality of maritime education in the Philippines and has warned that Filipino seafarers could be banned from boarding EU-flagged ships if remedial measures are not made.

EMSA was in Manila, Philippines in October 2013 for the final audit of maritime schools’ compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). The EMSA audit team met with officials of the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Commission on Higher Education and the Philippine Regulatory Commission. Marina is the lead agency for STCW implementation in the Philippines. Seventeen maritime schools and training institutes were visited “to determine if their training standards are aligned with STCW requirements,” said the Philippine Embassy.

Manila, Philippines. Credit: iStock

Filipino crew are often seen in the superyacht industry as they are know for their strong work ethic and more recruitment agencies are setting up bases in the area due to this popularity. So any ban of this kind on Filipino crew would be hugely detrimental to EU-flagged superyachts. The Crew Report has set out to find out the actual likelihood of this happening.

In an official statement regarding the EMSA audit, MARINA appears to want to dispel any anxiety surrounding the situation: “There are rumours circulating in Europe and the Philippines that the draft report already passes judgment on the Philippines’ STCW compliance. The rumours prejudge one of the possible decisions of the EC – that the EC would withdraw recognition of Philippine-issued officer’s certificates. However, the draft report makes no such recommendations – neither to continue nor withdraw recognition of Philippine certificates.

"Everyone realises the repercussions if they do not do what needs to be done. The MARINA is serious and they have accredited training centres, which are clearly credible ones with a solid reputation."

“EMSA emphasises the need to underscore the true nature and significance of the draft report – that it is a technical audit report, which presents facts gathered by the audit team and their observations of the status of the Philippine STCW implementation system based on the team’s inspection in October 2013. The final report will be submitted by EMSA as a reference document for the European Commission, which will ultimately make the decision. As in any audit exercise, The Philippines will be furnishing the auditing body with an account of its corrective actions, to ensure that it is afforded a complete picture of the current situation.”

MARINA are also careful to add that the EMSA audit team emphasised in their October visit that the inspection’s focus is on the continued recognition of Philippine officer’s certificated, which reduces the risk of loss of employment for Filipino crew on EU-flagged vessels. “The EMSA audit team will finalise their report in March for submission to the European Commission (EC), which will most likely refer it to the EC’s Committee on Safe Seas for deliberation and decision in the coming months … MARINA will continue with their intensified STCW implementation effort.”

The Crew Report
contacted Lisa Moran-Jarque, general manager of Crew Asia in the Philippines to find out her take on the situation. “Everything is falling into place,” she says. “Everyone realises the repercussions if they do not do what needs to be done. The MARINA is serious and they have accredited training centres, which are clearly credible ones with a solid reputation.”