Everything indicates that the EU is gearing up to approve the Philippines as a major supplier of seafarers from the many seafarer schools housed in the country, several sources familiar with the matter tell ShippingWatch. However, the sources add that it will likely be 2016 before the case is decided entirely.
The access to hiring seafarers from the country's seafarer schools is crucial for many carriers, just as the seafarers represent an important source of income for the country and the officers hired to work on foreign-flagged ships.
But the quality at numerous of the schools had over time deteriorated to the point where the EU a few years ago put its foot down, threatening to revoke its approval of the Philippine schools unless the standard improved. At the time, the EU's maritime safety agency EMSA in a report pointed to a series of shortcomings that had to be addressed.
"The Commission will continue monitoring closely the state of compliance of the Philippines with the STCW convention ((International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers). The Commission will ensure that the Philippine authorities address all the issues raised the inspection report of EMSA, and that they provide regular updates on the implemantation of corrective measures to DG Move (The EU Transport Commissioner) and EMSA. Based on the analysis of the updates, and progress is not the anticipated one, we don´t exclude another inspection in 2016," says the EU Commission in a comment to ShippingWatch.
Multiple-year approval process
The efforts to ensure a proper quality at the Philippine seafarer schools have been underway for close to six years. EMSA visited a total of 18 schools on two trips to the Philippines in 2013, after which the agency's conclusions included:
- Some of the school headmasters were quite simply unable to explain exactly what the students were doing
- The students were not given the amount of practical hours on board ships that they are entitled to, and which the rules stipulate that they must have
- Malfunctioning equipment, including simulators that did not work as intended at some of the schools
- In general, a big part of the trained seafarers hold diplomas that are insufficient in terms of the requirements needed
Not until now-former candidate for the position as Secretary General of the IMO, Max Mejia, was appointed administrator of Marine, the country's maritime authority, did things start to happen, according to several observers. One of the problems involved the fact that many schools had been established as sort of favors for friends, and Meija is said to be the man who finally made the move to clean up among the many schools. However, Max Meija is expected to resign from his current job in order to move to Sweden next year, which is why all parties hope to be able to secure final OK for the country's schools before that time.
Earlier this year, Marina prepared a list of schools that comply with the STCW requirements, and significantly fewer schools are featured on this list than in the past. The IMO has also visited the country with a task force aimed at helping to improve teaching standards at the schools.
The Philippines is the world's largest supplier of seafarers, and the EU estimates that around 11,000 Philippine seafarers are employed on EU-flagged vessels.