Back Front Again: EMSA AUDIT REARS ITS HEAD
There’s talk The MARINA Administrator Robert Empedrad has been informed by an official of the Danish Shipowners Association that the Philippines is most likely to be banned by the European Union (EU). That, the big wallop has just been delayed by urgencies of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It appears Empedrad even furnished maritime groups of The MARINA’s comprehensive report to address EMSA, seeking inputs to even raise standards per STCW Conventions.
In a live FB media briefing on December 17th, Empedrad said they received the Draft Report of EMSA on December 1st and has submitted MARINA’s Response December 16th content of which is yet confidential.
He expects EU’s assessment by April or May next year and the Philippines to respond in two months to “correct” shortfalls EU may list down. Vice Admiral Miranda is on top of things, bearing in mind Empedrad’s 10-Point program.
In another meeting, Empedrad assures he will be open and share EMSA findings to the stakeholders who have been kept in the blind for years. He also solicits inputs from them, being the experts and frontliners of the industry.
From the top.
The Administrator also shared he had met with Magda Kopcynska, Director for Waterborne Transport, DG Move, who seems to project EU’s lost of trust on the Philippine resolve to upgrade standards. But they will still allow two months for a respond. After two months of assessment, EU will vote on the dis-accreditation or not of the Philippines.
If dis-accredited, those on board may work yet for five years but will not be renewed. 50,000 Filipino seafarers on board EU-flagged vessels will lost their jobs, sending shock waves to the Philippine economy.
The EMSA audit listed 35 deficiencies and 42 shortcomings over the years. While the tempest builds up, The MARINA and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) are on a turf war on which should regulate maritime schools, the epicenter of EMSA and EU’s frustration.
The matter of reforms was echoed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., speaking last November 23 at a virtual conference, CrewConnect Global Session On Demand, where he raised three points:
- Seafarers are key frontline workers who continue to captain and steer ships to bring essential cargo like food, basic commodities, medical supplies and transportation services
- Now, more than ever, our seafarers need our support, cooperation and creative thinking so they can continue to be deployed and offer their essential services.
- As an archipelagic nation, seafaring is our competitive advantage. And then there is the Filipino affinity for the sea, it is part of our DNA. Spanish records tell that we were good at only two things: fighting and sailing.
Locsin spoke with candor: our 400,000 seafarers may be dis-accredited “Because our maritime schools are not up to European standards.” But EU principals told Locsin they’d missed our seamen who learn very fast, adopt quickly to new technologies.
While optimistic, Locsin is wary things can change. China announced all incoming seafarers from or passing through the Philippines be COVID tested three days before boarding. Still, COVID positive seafarers get in, possibly with unqualified or crooked testing.
China further compounds the problem by insisting on Chinese crew for vessels made in China. But this is standard cabotage law which demands for local crew for vessels plying on its waters.
Guy Platten, now Intl Chamber of Shipping Secretary General (ICS), said at the Interferry Conference in October 2016 that “… the UK Chamber’s relationship with the Philippines is stronger than ever. Many of our members employ Filipino crew, and I am delighted to say our Merchant Navy Training Board… is now working more closely than ever with Filipino agencies to help boost training standards further still.”
Whichever the Brexit Issue is resolved, good words for the Philippines by UK to EU has some weight, given “They want to live up to the mantra that the EU is losing a bad tenant, but gaining a good neighbor.”
More significantly, EU is losing its second biggest member, arguably one of its most globally influential member, most well-funded military.
Further, Locsin highlighted the country has implemented the Green Lane to facilitate safe, swift crew change and repatriation of seafarers --- a first in the world which covers movement of seafarers, licensed manning agencies, shipping companies, airlines, and ancillary services.
The Philippine consulate has resumed issuance of Crew List Visa (9C) to allow crew change and repatriation process of foreign seafarers in the Philippines. This is supplemented by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) allowing the entry of foreign seafarers for crew rotation.
While details of implementation may vary with other nations, the crux of Philippine protocols is to be fair to all, instead of juicing foreigners to the max.