Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Filipino Seafarers: Heroes of the Seas

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As of 2021, it’s estimated that there are around 400,000 Filipino seafarers working on ships globally, making them the largest nationality group in the international maritime workforce.

The Philippines has a long history of seafaring, and its robust maritime industry has made a significant contribution to the country’s economy. Seafaring remains an important source of employment for Filipinos, with many seeking careers as deckhands, engineers, and other maritime professionals.

The industry also offers opportunities for upward mobility, with many Filipino seafarers rising through the ranks to become senior officers and captains. Despite the many benefits of seafaring, the job can also be demanding, with long periods of time away from family and harsh working conditions. Nevertheless, the demand for Filipino seafarers remains high due to their reputation for being hard-working, highly skilled, and well-educated.

History of the Philippines as a producer of global seafarers

The history of seafaring as a profession for Filipinos dates back to the early 20th century when the country was still a colony of the United States. During this time, Filipinos were recruited to work as laborers on American ships, particularly as messmate and stewards. Over time, more and more Filipinos entered the maritime industry, and the country became known for producing a large pool of skilled and well-educated seafarers.

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After the Philippines gained independence in 1946, the country’s maritime industry continued to grow, and the demand for Filipino seafarers increased globally. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Philippines became a major supplier of seafarers to the international shipping industry, and the government began to provide training and education for aspiring seafarers. Today, the Philippines is one of the largest providers of seafarers in the world, with a large network of maritime schools and training institutions that produce highly skilled and well-educated seafarers.

The growth of the Filipino seafaring profession has had a significant impact on the country’s economy, as it has become a major source of foreign exchange earnings through remittances from seafarers. The profession has also provided opportunities for social mobility for many Filipinos, with many rising to become senior officers and captains on ships. Despite the challenges and risks associated with the job, seafaring remains an attractive career option for Filipinos, and the demand for their skills and expertise continues to be strong.

A quarter of the world’s seafarers come from the Philippines

It’s estimated that Filipinos make up around 25-30% of the international maritime workforce. This means that out of the millions of seafarers working on ships globally, around 400,000 are Filipinos.

This high representation of Filipinos in the maritime industry is a testament to the country’s long history of seafaring and its robust maritime education and training system, which produces a large pool of highly skilled and well-educated seafarers. Despite the challenges and risks associated with the job, the demand for Filipino seafarers remains strong, and they are highly valued by shipping companies for their hard-working and professional nature.

Why do shipping lines like Filipino seafarers

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Filipino seafarers are highly preferred in the maritime industry for several reasons:

  1. Education and Training: The Philippines has a strong maritime education and training system, which produces seafarers who are well-educated and highly skilled.
  2. Language Skills: Many Filipino seafarers are able to speak English, which is the language of international maritime trade, making them a valuable asset to shipping companies.
  3. Hard-working and Professional: Filipino seafarers are known for their strong work ethic and professional demeanor, which makes them highly valued by employers.
  4. Flexibility and Adaptability: Filipino seafarers are able to adapt to different cultural and working environments, making them an ideal fit for the international maritime industry.
  5. Reputation: The Philippines has a long history of seafaring, and its seafarers have a reputation for being highly skilled and professional, which further enhances their value in the workplace.

Overall, these factors contribute to the high demand for Filipino seafarers in the maritime industry, and they continue to be a preferred choice for shipping companies around the world.

Common problems of Filipino seafarers

Filipino seafarers face several challenges and problems, including:

  1. Long periods of time away from family: Seafaring is a demanding job that requires long periods of time away from home and loved ones, which can take a toll on seafarers’ personal and family life.
  2. Harsh working conditions: Seafarers often work long hours in difficult and hazardous conditions, including rough seas, extreme temperatures, and high levels of stress.
  3. Lack of job security: The maritime industry can be volatile, and seafarers may face unemployment or reduced income during periods of economic downturn.
  4. Health risks: Seafarers may be exposed to health risks, including injury, illness, and fatigue, due to the demanding nature of their job.
  5. Exploitation and abuse: Some seafarers may also face exploitation and abuse by employers, including poor working conditions, low pay, and exploitation of their contractual rights.
  6. Homesickness and isolation: Seafarers may also struggle with homesickness and isolation due to long periods of time away from home and family.

Despite these challenges, the demand for Filipino seafarers remains high, and the profession continues to be an important source of employment and economic growth for the Philippines.

Nevertheless, it is important to address these challenges and improve working conditions for Filipino seafarers, to ensure that they are able to work in a safe, secure, and fair environment.

The threat of seafarer ban in Europe

Filipino seafarers have faced bans in Europe due to concerns about the quality and standards of training and certification in the Philippines. This is because the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has raised concerns about the standards of maritime education and training in the Philippines, and the quality of certificates issued to Filipino seafarers.

The ban on Filipino seafarers in Europe has been imposed as a result of the EMSA’s assessment of the Philippine maritime education and training system, which found that it did not meet the standards required for seafarers working in European waters.

The ban has had a significant impact on the employment prospects of Filipino seafarers, who have traditionally been a major source of seafarers for the global maritime industry. However, the Philippine government and the maritime community have taken steps to address the concerns raised by the EMSA, and have made improvements to the maritime education and training system in the Philippines.

It is important to note that the ban is not a blanket ban on all Filipino seafarers, but rather a ban on those who have been trained and certified by institutions that have been deemed to have failed to meet the standards required by the EMSA.

Training deficiencies that threaten their jobs

There are several training deficiencies that Filipino seafarers may face, including:

  1. Lack of specialized training: Some seafarers may not receive specialized training in areas such as safety, security, and environmental protection, which can impact their ability to perform their duties effectively.
  2. Inadequate training facilities: The training facilities available to Filipino seafarers may not be adequate in terms of equipment, technology, and resources, which can impact the quality of the training received.
  3. Shortage of qualified trainers: There may be a shortage of qualified trainers in the Philippines, which can impact the quality and availability of training for aspiring and current seafarers.
  4. Insufficient training opportunities: Some seafarers may not have access to sufficient training opportunities, which can limit their ability to develop and improve their skills.
  5. Outdated training methods: The training methods used for Filipino seafarers may be outdated, which can limit their effectiveness in preparing seafarers for the demands of the modern maritime industry.

These training deficiencies can impact the ability of Filipino seafarers to perform their duties effectively and safely, and it is important for the Philippines and the international maritime community to address these issues and improve the training and education opportunities available to them.

Filipino seafarers can avail of training from several sources.

  1. Maritime schools and institutions: The Philippines has a number of maritime schools and institutions that offer training programs for aspiring and current seafarers. These schools and institutions offer courses in areas such as navigation, engineering, safety, and security.
  2. Shipping companies: Some shipping companies provide in-house training for their seafarers, which may include basic and specialized training in areas such as safety, security, and environmental protection.
  3. Government agencies: The Philippine government has several agencies responsible for the regulation and development of the maritime industry, including the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), which provides training and certification for seafarers.
  4. International organizations: International organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) also provide training and capacity-building programs for seafarers.

In conclusion, there are several sources where Filipino seafarers can avail of training and education to improve their skills and knowledge, and it is important for them to take advantage of these opportunities to further their careers in the maritime industry.


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