We’re now almost entirely convinced that the European Commission (EC) won’t withdraw recognition of Filipino seafarer certificates. A scheduled visit to Manila by the EMSA (European Maritime Safety Agency) team in early March tells our intuitive mind that the Europeans want some more justification for not imposing a ban on Filipino seamen. Opinion within the European Union is certainly divided, those against a ban fearing its impact on the EU maritime labour market. On the other hand, we don’t see ourselves jumping with joy should the EC decide in favour of the Philippines. No, we’re not being unpatriotic.

For sure, it won’t be the end of the world even with an EU ban, at least not right away. Such a move will affect thousands of Filipinos, especially those working on board passenger ships. But there are vastly more Filipino seamen deployed on FOC vessels than there are on EU-registered bottoms. What should be of concern is the fallout from any EU ban, which could be akin to the aftershocks following an earthquake. Why should shipowners continue hiring Filipinos when they have been blacklisted in the EU? Here’s a look at the numbers:

Note: The Netherlands, UK, Cyprus and Malta are members of the EU. Norway is not
an EU member but it is covered by the EU directive on seafarers’ training.
Source: Philippine Overseas Employment Administration

A favourable EC decision may be rightly construed as a vote of confidence in the Philippines’ maritime education and training system. However, it would not mean that all’s well with Filipino MET institutions or that the bureaucrats tasked with enforcing the STCW standards have suddenly become models of competence and integrity. In fact, we fear that a thumbs up from the Europeans would result in complacency and smugness – local maritime schools and training centres merrily going their old ways, chasing after profit instead of quality. How sad that would be, but not surprising. ~Barista Uno

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