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PH fails to meet EU maritime standards, Filipino seafarers may lose their jobs

The EU gives the Philippines until March 10 to submit proof that it complies with international standards of maritime education, training, and certification

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Thousands of Filipino seafarers assigned in vessels around Europe could face displacement if the European Union (EU) rules the Philippines as non-compliant with international maritime standards, the National Maritime Polytechnic (NMP) said on Thursday, February 17.

According to the European Commission, the Philippine seafarers’ education, training, and certification system has serious shortcomings and has failed to meet the requirements that ensure maritime safety.

The EU announced on Thursday that the European Commission Directorate General for Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE) met with Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad, head of the Philippine Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) in Brussels on February 8.

This meeting was convened at the request of the Philippine side to clarify the EU’s expectations following a notification sent on December 20, 2021. The EU required proof that the Philippines was in accordance with the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention, to which the Philippines is a signatory.

The European Commission discovered deficiencies – some of which were serious – in the education, training, and certification system for seafarers during an inspection in 2020.

“Sakaling makita ng European Union na ang Pilipinas ay hindi sumusunod sa mga international na mga pamantayan o mga patakaran na ito, maaari silang magpataw ng sanctions such as the non-recognition of STCW certificates issued by the Philippine government, iniisyu ng NMP na sa kalaunan ay magresulta ito sa pagka-displace ng ating mga marinong Pilipino at mawalan ng pagkakataon na makasampa sa mga European flag-registered ocean-going vessels (If the EU sees that the Philippines is non-compliant with international standards, it may impose sanctions such as the non-negotiation of STCW certificates issued by the Philippine government, issued by the NMP, which may eventually result in the displacement of our Filipino seafarers. They might lose their chance to board European flag-registered ocean-going vessels,)” said NMP executive director Joel Maglunsod in a Laging Handa briefing.

Following an inspection in 2020 to determine the Philippines’ compliance with the requirements of the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention, the EU Commission issued the notification.

The EU Commission issued the notification following an inspection conducted in 2020 to determine the Philippines compliance with the requirements of the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) Convention.

“The European Commission notified the Philippines of a number of deficiencies, including serious ones, identified in the Philippine seafarers’ education, training and certification system, which fails to guarantee that the requirements of the STCW Convention are met,” said a statement by the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines on the Philippines’ STCW System.

“Philippine authorities received the European Commission notification in the second half of December 2021. Under the applicable rules, the Philippines has to provide its formal reply to the European Commission within two months, and not later than 10 March 2022,” the EU Commission said.

The full notification and details of the report are not public and cannot be disclosed to any party, but only to the Philippine government. However, the EU Manila Delegation said that “inconsistencies have been identified in relation to the competences covered by the education and training programs leading to the issuing of officers’ certificates, as well as in several approved programs regarding teaching and examination methods, facilities and equipment.”

Inconsistencies have also been identified in the monitoring of inspections and evaluations of the schools. In addition, there have been concerning findings as regards simulators and on-board training.

It added the European Commission is committed to continue to work in partnership with the Philippines to address the STCW.

“Maritime safety is of utmost importance for the EU, in particular the seafarers’ education and training,” the statement added.

The European Commission, with the assistance of the European Maritime Safety Agency, will assess the reply of the Philippines and will determine a course of action.

It added the European Commission is committed to continue to work in partnership with the Philippines to address the STCW.

“Maritime safety is of utmost importance for the EU, in particular the seafarers’ education and training,” the statement added.

The European Commission, with the assistance of the European Maritime Safety Agency, will assess the reply of the Philippines and will determine a course of action.

If the assessment is negative, the European Union may eventually withdraw recognition of the Philippines STCW system and, as a result, the certificates for masters and officers issued by Philippine maritime schools.

Existing certificates for masters and officers would be recognized until their natural expiry date, but new certificates would not be recognized to work on EU flagged ships.

Nonetheless, the EU stated that they are aware of the significant contribution of seafarers to the Filipino economy, noting that Filipino seafarers are also equally important to the EU, with approximately one out of every five foreign seafarers on EU flagged ships being Filipino.

“The European Commission therefore sincerely hopes that, by March 10th, the Philippines will have conducted the necessary internal reforms and amendments to comply fully with the STCW requirements,” the statement added.

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