Manning agencies oppose seafarer ban in Red Sea, Gulf of Aden amid conflict

ALMA Maritime president Tina Garcia (center) discusses why they are not in favor of the total ban of seafarers on vessels traversing the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
ALMA Maritime president Tina Garcia (center) discusses why they are not in favor of the total ban of seafarers on vessels traversing the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.File photo

Licensed manning agencies operating in the country oppose the potential total ban on seafarers joining vessels navigating the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, despite the high-risk and war zone status due to ongoing conflict between Israeli forces and the Hamas terror group.

The Association of the Licensed Manning Agencies (ALMA), consisting of over 80-member manning agencies employing 170,000 seafarers, said seafarers should be allowed to choose whether to join or not vessels that are traversing the said war-torn areas.

“We feel for the Filipinos who died and were wounded in the various Houthi attacks if we will base it on the humanitarian aspects. But we are not for a total ban because we also need to consider its effects on the employment of our future seafarers, as well as economic and commercial aspects,” said Christina Garcia, president of ALMA Maritime.

“If we ban our Filipino seafarers totally, shipowners would resort to getting other races instead of ours,” she added.

Garcia said its members are implementing Department Order 2, signed by Department of Migrant Workers secretary Hans Leo Cacdac in Abril this year, in which seafarers have the right to refuse if the vessel that they will be serving will traverse the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

On Monday, Cacdac disclosed that to date, only 78 Filipino seafarers invoked their right to refuse sailing, as many Filipino seafarers are still willing to sail in these dangerous areas amid the consecutive attacks of Yemen's pro-Iranian Houthi group because of high salaries and hazard pays. 

“Our ALMA members feel that this should continue because it’s our seafarer’s decision as they have their reasons, including livelihood and personal reasons. We are saying this because the DMW is considering a total ban, which we want to defy,” Garcia said.

Despite this, Garcia said they understand the mandate of the DMW to protect the welfare of Filipino seafarers, hence, there should be a balance.

“What we want to suggest is government-to-government talks between the flag state carriers and the Philippine government. It is more viable to ban vessels traversing the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden and find another route in Africa, rather than banning the seafarers. Although, there are added costs for the part of the shipowners. Traversing the African route would take an additional 22 days for a shipment to reach a destination,” according to Garcia.  

Garcia cited an example as the Dutch Government, which ordered that all Dutch-flag merchant vessels be barred from traversing the said war-torn areas, especially since missile attacks by Houthis are rampant.

Last month, 22 Filipino crew members of the Liberian-flagged MV Tutor were attacked by a Houthi missile in the Red Sea.

MV Tutor had already sunk, which made searching for the one missing Filipino more difficult. 

Daily Tribune