PHL passes EU audit; 50,000 Filipino seafarers can stay in EU ships


AROUND 50,000 Filipino seafarers employed by European-flagged vessels can now breathe a sigh of relief after the European Commission (EC) decided to continue recognizing their safety certifications issued by Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

The EC Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport said the Philippine government showed “serious efforts to comply with the requirements” of the international standards on basic safety training courses.

The Philippines is the largest maritime labor supplier in the world with 345,000 deployed in 2022. They remitted around US$6.7 billion or around P341 billion in 2022. 

Of these seafarers, around 50,000 are masters, officers and crew on board cargo ships, cruise ships, yachts and other vessels of Greece, Norway, Germany and Malta. Industry estimates that one in every five foreign seafarers on EU-flagged vessels is a Filipino.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) carried out an inspection of the maritime education, training and certification system of the Philippines for its seafarers between February 24 to March 12, 2020.

According to its December 20, 2021 audit report, EMSA found “deficiencies” in the compliance of the Philippines with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping(STCW) Convention. 

These include: 

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

Brussels told Manila that it may withdraw its recognition of the Philippine STCW certification if these deficiencies were not addressed. This threatened the employment of the Filipino seafarers of EU-flagged shipping firms.

MARINA appealed the audit and showed efforts to correct the deficiencies on March 8, 2022.

Henrik Hololei, director-general of EC Mobility and Transport, said based on the the answers of the Philippine government and on “all available information,” they concluded that measures undertaken “demonstrate concrete progress and improvement as regards the compliance with the requirements of the STCW Convention.”

 “We appreciate the constructive cooperation with the Philippine authorities and welcome their efforts to improve the system for training and certifying seafarers,” Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean said in a statement.

Vălean acknowledged that the Philippines “provide a significant and valued part of the European and global shipping industry’s maritime workforce.”

However, the EC said the Philippines still need to address issues that need “further improvement.”

“I would like to stress that we expect the Philippines to keep continuing a steady improvement in the areas indicated in the annexed document,” Hololei said in a letter addressed to Marina administrator Atty. Hernani Fabia.

Commissioner Vălean said the Philippines can count on the technical support of the EC
“to further improve the implementation and oversight of minimum education, training and certification requirements, as well as living and working conditions.”.

The technical assistance will be available in the “coming months,” as discussed between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and EC President Ursula von der Leyen in the margins of the EU-ASEAN summit last December.