Brain drain of local seafarers creates vacuum in domestic shipping sector
Cebu City (25 September) -- Domestic ships are in the losing end with government's thrust of exporting Filipino seafarers as the brain drain is already creating a vacuum in the local shipping industry.
Perfecto de los Reyes of the United Trampers Association of the Philippines (UTAP) lamented that they could never compete with foreign ship owners in terms of incentives and benefits while the brain drain situation in the country is getting worse.
De los Reyes said the problem is being seriously felt more so this year with most local shipping lines continually looking for replacement of marine engineers and deck officers. Whereas before, long queues of applicants lined their offices, today, domestic shipping lines are the ones looking for crew members, de los Reyes cited.
Unless government revised their policy on the required number of deck officers and marine engineers, operations of domestic vessels will be tied up jeopardizing the shipping sector, de los Reyes warned during a recent press conference that marked the National Maritime Week celebration from September 23-29.
Under government policy, domestic vessels are required three marine engineers and four deck officers while the UTAP wants to reduce by one the needed number of marine engineers and deck officers.
De los Reyes said the ULAP has already written a formal letter to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina-7) regarding their problem.
UTAP-members are cargo service providers that mostly transport agricultural products, construction supplies like steel among others, de los Reyes bared.
Capt. John Togonon of the Association of Maritime Training Centers agreed that the shortage is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately as Cebu, being the shipping capital of the country will be severely affected by the massive export of local seafarers.
Togonon said domestic shipping lines since three years ago have started losing their crew members to foreign ship owners and the problem has worsened year after year. In order to cope with the rising demand for crew members due to the problem, Togonon suggested that apprenticeship experience must run for three years to include the deck officers.
One intervention initiated by the government through the Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA) is the scholarship for mechanical engineering program offered to graduates of engineering courses particularly to children of overseas Filipino workers, disclosed OWWA-7 Wilfreda Misterio.
The scholarship program was launched last year but unfortunately, there were very few takers, Misterio said.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA-7) officer-in-charge Evelia Dorato on the other hand, said the shortage of crew members is not only a problem in the domestic front but overseas as well.
Marina-7 Regional Director Atty. Glenn Cabañez said the problem raised by ULAP has already been forwarded to their central office and that he is awaiting a new circular that will cover and address the issue.
Cabañez also stressed there is a need to sit down with all concerned agencies involved in the shipping industry from the academe to deployment from both government and private sectors to evaluate the new set of rules governing crew members.
Aggravating the shortage problem is that foreign shipping lines from Japan and Norway have linked up with some schools that offer nautical and marine engineering courses to hire graduates as part of the crew members immediately after they graduate, Cabañez pointed out.
Cabañez said there is a need for new graduates of nautical and marine engineering to first serve domestic shipping lines before they can be eligible for overseas employment. (PIA-Cebu/FCR) [top]