EU OK of PHL seafarers’ certificates ‘political’


THE European Commission’s continued recognition of the Philippine certification for Filipino seafarers is a political decision and the Philippine government should not be complacent in enforcing international standards in training and educating mariners, a manning industry leader said at the weekend.

Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople said the Philippine government is aware of the hard task ahead to sustain efforts to correct deficiencies unearthed in an EC body’s audit, and continues to address them.

On Friday, the EC Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport said the regional bloc has extended its recognition of the Philippine-issued certificates for seafarers called International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW).

The decision practically averted a “crisis of monumental proportions,” Migrant Workers Secretary Ople said, as this would allow the 50,000 Filipino masters, officers and crew to continue working in Norwegian, Greek, Maltese and German-flagged ships.

Edgar Flores, general manager and ship owner representative of Eastern Mediterranean Manning Agency, said European shipowners cannot afford at this time to lose 50,000 Filipino seafarers whom they believe are very competent at seafaring.

“Shipowners said they will either go to the European Parliament to lobby against the ban or they will change the flag of convenience just so they would not lose the Filipino seafarers,” manning industry leader Flores told BusinessMirror.

He said that since the war in Ukraine, European ship owners have also lost Ukrainian seafarers.

There are around 76,442 seafarers from Ukraine, accounting for 4 percent of the global workforce.

“European shipowners have already lost Ukrainian seafarers because all men are required to join the Army to fight the war. They could not afford to lose their Filipino seafarers,” he added.

The International Chamber for Shipping (ICS) and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) issued a statement “warmly welcoming” the EC decision.

“As a major seafaring nation, Filipino seafarers are a vital and valued part of the seafarer workforce. This decision made by the European Commission is a testament to the Philippines’s hard work to make sure seafarer training complies with regulations,” Guy Platten, ICS Secretary General, said.

“This is a positive development as Filipino seafarers play a central role in European shipping and in keeping European trade moving,” noted ECSA Secretary General Sotiris Raptis.

Ople, who is in Geneva for a United Nations conference for migrant workers, profusely thanked the regional bloc for recognizing the efforts of the Philippine government to correct deficiencies in maritime training and education for seafarers.

When asked if the EU decision was political, she replied, “It’s not for us to say. I guess it’s just a matter for us to accept, be grateful to EC and members of EC and maintain the same track.”

Extension bears ‘conditions’

The Department of Foreign Affairs also reminded that the extension “comes with conditions” for the Philippines to meet and comply with its international commitments.

According to Flores, the audit report of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has found many deficiencies in the implementation of the ITCW Convention. These deficiencies are still there, he said.

A letter by the EC Directorate for Mobility and Transport to the MARINA Administrator, a copy of which was obtained by BusinessMirror, listed the areas that the Philippines still need to improve on:

  • Monitoring, supervision and evaluation of training and assessment;
  • Examination and assessment of competence;
  • Programme and course design and approval;
  • Availability and use of training facilities and simulators;
  • On-board training; and Issue,  revalidation and registration of certificates and endorsements.

Of these six areas of deficiencies, the EC said monitoring, supervision and evaluation of training and assessment is the “most critical.

“This ensures compliance of the other activities conducted with the requirements of the STCW Convention and Code,” it added.

Ople said they are aware of the six deficiencies that the Philippines need to address.

The Philippine government has committed to correct these problems and the EU has also committed to provide technical
competence to help the Philippine government  implement the industry
standards in maritime training and education.

“In January 2023 a new advisory committee was launched to give expert advice on major maritime issues affecting Filipino seafarers—the International Advisory Committee for Global Maritime Standards, which is supported by the Philippines government and in collaboration with ECSA and industry partners. By all of us working together on these issues, we can tackle the challenges ahead for our workforce.

“Maintaining seafarer training standards globally ensures a brighter future for our seafarers,” ICS’s Platten added.

Image credits: Igor Kardasov |