PHL seafarers urged: Embrace new technologies

Seafarers are among the biggest contributors to the gross domestic product contributing $6.545 billion in remittance in 2021

September 23, 2022

TACLOBAN CITY — With trends in international shipping gearing towards the use of modern technologies like robotics, a maritime group urged the government to invest more on modern equipment for training seafarers if it wants to keep its dominance in manning in international voyage.

National Maritime Polytechnic executive director Mayla Macadawan said that new technologies are slowly replacing able-bodied personnel in seagoing vessels, thus the need to improve further the country’s seafarers’ skills on the usage of new technologies.

“Hopefully the Philippines will have a paradigm shift to address the necessary training needs in terms of the usage of technology,” said Macadawan, stressing that Filipino seafarers are among the biggest contributors to the gross domestic product contributing $6.545 billion in remittance in 2021.

Macadawan added that countries such as Denmark and Norway, for example, are already using automation on ships plying its internal waters.

“If there is automation it means that there is a probability of a decline in the need for seafarers but we should not worry if we can address this problem on technologies and competencies of our seafarers at this early point in time,” Macadawan said.

She also stressed that while the present competencies of Filipino seafarers are compliant to international standards such as the 2010 Manila Amendment to the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers, the International Maritime Organization is already in the process of revising the STCW that will spell out the needed competencies in the international maritime industry.

The revisions to STCW will come either next year or in 2024.

“It will identify the training and competencies required plus the technology needed to address the required competencies,” Macadawan said. “The amendments will address the technological advancement of the shipping industry.”

She disclosed that the NMP has already prepared studies related to the use of new technologies but these have not yet taken off as it await for the new regulations from IMO.

“Filipino seafarers will always be the seafarers of choice. But all government agencies should work in synergy so we can address at once what these needs are in terms of compliance,” she said.

Macadawan is also urging Filipino seafarers to upgrade their competency and proficiency to become officers of ships not only because of a higher pay but also to fill in the shortage of officers.

“There is shortage of officers. Hopefully more and more Filipino seafarers will be encouraged to upgrade to officers of seagoing vessels,” Macadawan said.

While the Philippines remains at the top among countries that supply ratings in international ships, it only ranks second next to China in the number of officers. In 2021, the country deployed at least 131,000 seafarers for ratings positions in various seagoing vessels and 73,000 officers.

Macadawan said Filipino seafarers are already facing competition in terms of dominance in manning. It considers Ukraine as its top competitor in Europe and Indonesia in Asia.

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