There are good and bad manning agencies, but I personally would rather have a hiring hall do the crew selection and deployment. I have seen enough in maritime Manila to say that crewing companies are a necessary evil. But they are not going away anytime soon. The best that seafarers can do is be discerning enough to deal only with the decent ones — definitely not an easy task if there are so many to choose from. I hope the following guide would be of help to seafarers who have no choice but to find employment through a manning outfit.
Look beyond size. A small manning agency could be better than its bigger competitors in terms of salaries, benefits and general treatment of seafarers.
Verify the legal status of the agency with the responsible national authority. Does it have a valid licence to operate?
Check the reputation of the ship’s owner or operator offering the job, not just the vessel type and specifications.
Find out what benefits are attached to the shipboard job being offered — social security, paid leave, etc.
If possible, go for manning agencies whose crews are covered by collective wage agreements with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) or its affiliate unions.
Is the agency handling seafarers’ dollar remittances properly and not cheating on the foreign exchange rate?
Does the agency have a strict policy which forbids its managers and employees from soliciting money and gifts from seafarers?
Ask other seafarers who have been hired by a particular agency what they think of it. Are they happy with that agency?
Be observant when you visit a manning agency’s offices. The office atmosphere and the way the employees interact with seafarers will tell you a lot about the company.
Be informed. Erring manning agencies (or their foreign principals) often land in the news because of certain malpractices and ill treatment of crews. Some legal websites feature Supreme Court decisions involving manning companies. They are worth visiting if you have the time.