Readers may recall the first time we featured Frankie the Philosopher Cat. Recently one morning, he asked if he could go out for some fresh air and have a look-see at the world of Philippine manning. It’s been singeing hot inside our house, so we consented. Besides, Frankie is a homebody. A stroll around would be good for him. He came home in the late afternoon and did he have some things to share!

Marine Café Blog: So how did it go?
Frankie: I think I need an aspirin.

MCB: Poor you. It must be the heat and humidity.
Frankie: No, it’s the humans who made my head spin. Seafarers were whining about the kind of service they were getting from the Maritime Industry Authority. They couldn’t believe that MARINA was issuing a temporary Seafarer’s Identification Record Sheet instead of a proper seaman’s book. There were even calls for a non-expiring seaman’s identification document. What a bunch.

MCB: Well, it’s a free country.
Frankie: I have nothing against freedom of expression and everything against misinformation and ignorance. ILO Convention No. 185, which the Philippines has ratified, clearly says the seafarers’ identification document shall in no case exceed 10 years, subject to renewal after the first five years.

MCB: What do you think of the manning agents?
Frankie: Ah, those folks are such a fractious lot they have several associations instead of just one. I sat in a meeting where one organisation held its annual election of officers. Same old faces on the board of directors and the same chap was elected president for the nth time. Why the bloody hell would anyone want to head an association for life?

MCB: Isn’t the presidency of an association an honourable position?
Frankie: Excuse me. It’s the individual who brings honour to a position! Otherwise, members of the Congress would all be honourable men and women.

MCB: Calm down. Now tell us, did you get to visit any manning office?
Frankie: I did, but at first I thought I was entering a hotel, not a manning agency. A young man in cadet’s uniform opened the glass door for a couple of visitors and smartly greeted them “Good afternoon, Sirs.” A young female cadet then escorted the visitors to the CEO’s office. A little later, I heard the secretary shout “Utility!” Whereupon a cadet rushed to her desk and was told to buy some pizza at a nearby mall as another prepared coffee for the guests.

MCB: That’s normal practice in Manila. The manning agents say it helps instill discipline in young aspiring officers. Besides, serving as a maritime flunkey is the only way for many to board their first vessel.
Frankie: Normal doesn’t make it right.

MCB: Did you feel any anxiety in the air with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) due to conduct another inspection come October?
Frankie: Manning folks are too busy making money. And at any rate, everyone thinks the EU can’t live without Filipino seafarers.

MCB: Can you imagine yourself being a seafarer?
Frankie: I think I would love the smell of greenbacks. But to be glorified every 25th of June, the Day of the Seafarer, and be treated like a commodity the rest of the year? No, thanks.

~Barista Uno

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