MANILA. Philippines—The newly appointed head of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) has expressed optimism that the country would pass the second stage of the European Union’s (EU) maritime safety audit this October and avert a possible ban on some 80,000 Filipino seafarers manning EU-registered vessels.
Marina administrator Maximo Mejia Jr. said he was confident the maritime industry would fully satisfy the concerns of the European Maritime Safety Administration (Emsa) team before it arrives for the final audit.
“Our priority is that we pass the forthcoming audit.… But I’m confident that the Filipino seafarers are qualified, they’re good,” said Mejia in an interview during the Philippine Coast Guard troop and equipment inspection last Tuesday.
Representatives from Emsa reviewed in April the Philippine oversight practices on maritime training and deployment to check if the government had addressed deficiencies reported in 2010.
By October, the Emsa will check on the progress made since its last audit by Marina, the Professional Regulation Commission and the Commission on Higher Education, the agencies involved in maritime education, certification and training in the country, the issues that Emsa had raised.
Emsa conducts the audits since the Philippines is a party to the 1978 International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
Mejia said the forthcoming audit is crucial.
“If we fail, we risk the withdrawal of recognition of certificates of up to 80,000 Filipino seafarers, which means that they would not be employable anymore on board European-flagged vessels. And that means Filipino families will be affected,” he said.
“But the situation is double-sided. Think of European ships… who would man their ships? Who would carry the trade for Europe if there are no Filipinos? I am not saying we are indispensable but you do not replace 80,000 Filipinos overnight,” he added.
“Our seafarers are really good but we have to back that before the international community. The international community must be satisfied that our standards are above board,” Mejia told reporters.
Mejia had earlier said that although a national quality standard system on maritime education, certification and training had been developed, this had yet to be tested.
“We have developed this already but (Emsa) said, ‘You haven’t tested it (in maritime schools).’ And that’s what we’re going to do,” said Mejia, adding that this would begin in July.
Asked what he thought was lacking as far as training was concerned, Mejia said: “Our training for the most part meets the standard. But since we have a lot of training centers, training programs and college programs related to maritime, we also have too many programs of low quality or substandard, that’s the underlying problem.
“But that is not the crucial issue as our seafarers are the best in the world. The issue is how good our system is to monitor if these schools and training centers are complying with the standards.”
There are some 93 maritime colleges and 104 maritime training centers nationwide, Mejia added.
The Philippines is currently the leading supplier of seamen to the world, with Filipinos comprising about 30 percent of all seafarers globally, according to government data.