Seatrade Maritime is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Philippines seeks 12 months from EMSA to prove its STCW reforms

Philippines seeks 12 months from EMSA to prove its STCW reforms
The Philippines is seeking an extra 12 months from the European authorities to show that the changes to its maritime administration over the last year and a half are sufficient to meet to the EC’s STCW audit criteria, according to a leading maritime executive from the country.

Gerardo Borromeo, vice chairman and ceo of Philippines Transmarine Carriers (PTC), tells Seatrade Global that it was not a case of buying more time, “but really providing the time necessary for the proper traction to take place on all changes.”

The Philippines implementation of STCW underwent its second audit in 2013 by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in October, with the threat of a ban of Filipino officers from EU-flagged ships hanging over it, in a process which has been ongoing now since 2006.

The results of the audit have since been sent to the Philippines government and which has made its response to the report. Borromeo, who is also president of Intermanager and vice chairman of the International Chamber of Shipping, says that the report basically said there was not sufficient evidence had implemented all the changes that had required.

However, he noted that while the EC could say, “you have had six, seven years, your time is up,” it should be viewed in perspective of the trajectory of change that has taken place since 2012. “The message we need to take to EMSA is don’t look at the period prior to 2012, look at what happened between 2012 and 2013, and look what is happening now.”

In 2012 an Executive Order of the President Benigo Aquino brought all the various bodies in charge of maritime training and certification under the Maritime Industrial Authority (Marina), however, it lacked legal teeth to make it effective.

There have been further changes over the last 12 months with, first the appointment of Maximo Meija as Marina administrator, bringing with him a wealth of experience from the World Maritime University in Sweden and then Jesulito “Jess” Manalo of Angkl (Anchor) representing the maritime industry in Congress.

“No other country has this voice, and for the first time the maritime industry has a voice in the law making part of government and this should be seen by the rest of the world as the accelerating point, the catalyst to ensure everything that needs to be done is being done,” he explains.

In just six and half months of Manalo being in Congress, a bill was passed designating Marina as the single maritime administration. “Give us another 12 months because now the law is going to be signed by the Philippines we will now have clear mandates.” Marina will then take over all the roles previously held by a diverse number of government bodies when it comes STCW training and certification, a key issue for EMSA.

Borromeo also points to the fact while there is an issue over documentary evidence in terms of training and certification this has not affected demand for Filipino seafarers, who he says have shown their quality on an anecdotal basis over the last 50 years. “The fact that every company continues to knock on the door of the Philippines is the proof of the pudding that these people have the capability,” he explains. However, he also adds we now all live in what he called an “ISO environment”.

Borromeo says both industry and government officials do not subscribe to the theory the Philippines “is too big to fail”. Indeed he has “Plan B” which he has promoted in his role as Intermanager president. This involves owners and managers seeking a maximum extension of the Filipino officers COC’s on EU-flagged ships.

With a series of meetings with EMSA, stakeholders, and the EC, the next few weeks could be crucial, for the Philippines and its EU-flagged serving seafarers.

But even if the worse case scenario transpires, Borromeo is clearly convinced that the Philippines is now on the right path. “Regardless of whatever course the EC decides the Philippines is on a course of doing what it needs to do. Whether we get the extension or not we need to do this anyway, and we are committed to doing that.”