50k Filipino seafarers face unemployment threats on EU vessels

About 50,000 Filipino seafarers who are already on board European Union-flagged vessels, as well as new seafarers who are preparing to deploy aboard European Union ships, fear job losses.

The House Committee on overseas worker affairs learned on Thursday that the Philippines continues to fail to comply with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, as well as Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).

Along with this, if the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) continues to believe that concerns raised years ago have not been addressed, the EU panel may withdraw recognition of Filipino seafarers who are ready to serve as officers on European vessels. EMSA will conduct a final evaluation of the country’s STCW compliance in November.

It is also said that if the EMSA makes a negative finding next month, they will automatically stop deploying Filipino seafarers. Those officers who are currently onboard EU flag ships would not lose their jobs immediately, but would have to wait until their STCW certifications expire.

Jerome Pampolina, the Assistant Secretary for sea-based services at the Department of Migrant Workers-DMW, mentioned in the statement that the nation has not passed the Emsa audit since 2006, or for over ten years. He also indicated that this will be the Philippines’ final year of compliance.

“If the recognition is withdrawn, the Philippines will go through a new round of evaluation as well as must satisfactorily comply with the discoveries before the recognition is restored.

“For the moment, Filipino officers, as well as ratings (the general term for skilled seafarers), will not anymore be qualified to be deployed in (EU-flagged) vessels that needed such certifications [as well as] existing certifications will be honoured until their expiration,” he added.

In addition, the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, Eduardo Jose de Vega, intends to bring up the STCW for discussion when President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos flies to visit Brussels, Belgium, in late December.

The European Union requested the Philippines to increase its efforts to comply with the STCW in February this year, and the government was required to prepare a formal response.

During the 2020 inspection, the European Union also informed the Philippines that there are still a number of deficiencies in the Philippines’ seafarers’ education, training, and certification systems.

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