The European Commission is considering a ban on Filipino seafarers working on ships flagged in the European Union according to the report in the German news outlet Deutsche Welle. According to the newspaper, at issue is years of substandard maritime training for Filipino seafarers failing to meet the international standards for maritime safety. If the EU follows through on this ban, it could be a devastating blow to one of the leading professions for Filipinos.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) according to the German newspaper published a report in 2022 updating a list of deficiencies the agency believes exist in the current training for Filipino seafarers. EMSA has been citing deficiencies in the training protocols since 2006 with the government of the Philippines promising to address the issues identified. According to the report, the EMSA report specified that the training and certification in Philippine maritime education institutions fell short of the guidelines mandated by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
The Philippines government depends on private educational institutions to provide the training but critics say it has not provided sufficient subsidies to upgrade the facilities. The Philippines counters that it is committed to upholding the standards and has been able to address EMSA’s concerns significantly reducing the number of audit findings over the years. The Philippines’ new president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., recently met with European Union officials and assured them that his country is committed to addressing the issues and complying with European regulations.
The Philippines is the world’s largest provider of seafarers according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Between 380,000 and 400,000 Filipinos work in various positions at sea. According to some reports, the Philippines accounts for as much as a quarter of all seafarers currently working on merchant ships.
If the European Commission adopts EMSA’s report and moves forward with a ban from employing Filipinos on merchant ships, the EU would stop recognizing the competency certificates issued by the Philippines to seafarers. Existing certificates would be recognized until they expire but Filipino seafarers would not be permitted to apply for jobs on ships flagged in the EU with new or renewed certificates.
The European Commission, according to Deutsche Welle, is due to make its decision possibly by the end of the first quarter of 2023. A spokesperson for the European Commission told the newspaper that the Philippines had supplied a detailed reply to EMSA’s audit and the commission’s experts are analyzing the information before a final decision is reached.
The possible ban could come at a time when the industry is already facing shortfalls and challenges in manning ships. Russia is reported to be the second largest source of seafarers according to the UN data along with Ukraine. The war in Ukraine disrupted employment and in general, the industry has been having a hard time attracting younger people to work at sea.