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Shipowners should be 'very worried' over Philippines seafarers and EMSA audit compliance

The shipowners and managers “should be very worried” over the consequences of the latest European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) audit of Philippines maritime training, warns Carl Schou, president and ceo of Wilhelmsen Ship Management.

As an October deadline looms for the Philippines maritime administration to prove that it has implemented a correction plan following a full audit of its compliance with certification of the STCW Convention by EMSA in March last year, Schou said some EU member states were losing patience with the Southeast Asian nation.

The Philippines, which supplies some 20% of the world’s international seafarers failed the March 2017 audit. It then submitted a correction plan to EMSA in September 2017 but this lacked support evidence and was sent back. The Philippines was then given until April this year to submit a correction plan with supporting evidence and until October to fully implement it.

“What I am hearing very few people believe the Philippines will have things ready by October this year,” Schou told a Wilhelmsen Ship Management seminar in Singapore on Friday.

In October EMSA will re-audit the Philippines system and make its recommendation to EU members by early 2019.

Read more: Yet another EMSA audit deadline looms over Filipino seafarers

Last chance saloon as Philippines awaits EMSA audit results

The issue has dragged on for some 12 years now and as far back 2012 EMSA recommended that if the Philippines did not comply with the requirements of STCW certification the EU should consider withdrawing its recognition of the Philippines, and thereby all its seafarers.

“I am also hearing that some EU members, there are many supply members in the EU, are now saying enough is enough, we have to do something we have to show the Philippines we are serious and they have to follow rules and regulations,” he said.

This raises the spectre that the EU might really impose some form sanctions against the Philippines, and by extension its seafarers, which could very bad news especially for EU-flagged owners with Filipino officers on board.

Exactly what these sanctions would be no-one knows for sure, but Schou said: It’s very obvious they (EU) would not recognise Philippines certificates meaning Philippines officers could not sail on EU vessels.” It also raises the wider possibility that the IMO could remove White List recognition for Philippines which would impact the industry on a global scale.

He said that a number of countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands and Japan, were seriously enough concerned to have a “plan B” in place, while flag states Panama, Liberia and Norway were formulating a “plan B”. In the case of Norway this would mean allowing Filipino officers to be pass and be certified under the Norwegian system.

When it comes to Wilhelmsen’s own operations Schou said: “As a ship manager I am worried, I have about 4,500 Filipino seafarers in our pool and we are working on some options.

“Luckily as ship manager I have a fairly large crewing effort so it would be possible to put in other nationalities. But for shipping companies (that are) isolated if they don’t have any plan B there might be some problems.”

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