In the rough and tumble of ship crewing, a completely honest and professional manning agency with real empathy for seafarers can be as hard to find as diamonds in the sand. Seafarers, however, are not looking for diamonds. They simply want to be employed. Their expectations are not very high. They usually flock to the agency that offers higher salaries for the shipboard positions they seek. Some look for other things besides (e.g., pension fund coverage, family welfare programme). Here is my own list of 10 things that make an ideal manning agency:
Has foreign principals with a reputation for caring for seafarers and paying decent wages
Ensures that office staff treat seafarers professionally and with utmost respect
Hires crew based on qualifications and experience, not on whether they are relatives of the staff or were recommended by influential people
Does not engage in the blacklisting of seafarers
Looks after the interests and welfare of its seafarers; does not side with erring foreign ship masters at their expense
(For manning agencies in Manila) Releases family allotments on time using the prevailing foreign exchange rate
Facilitates legitimate money claims instead of stonewalling them (e.g., sickness and disability benefits, overtime pay)
Strictly forbids all its employees from demanding or accepting money or gifts from seafarers
Does not use maritime cadets as unpaid office help or servants (this is servitude, not internship)
Has no unholy alliance with training centres, review centres and medical clinics
How many such manning agencies exist? That is the sixty-four-dollar question.
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