In a recent post, I showed how Filipino seafarers were being short-changed big time on their dollar remittances. How could such brazen cheating by unscrupulous manning agents be allowed to happen? I share the anguish and anger of those affected, so I have published a free guide which I hope will benefit seafarers everywhere.
In this guest article, maritime training expert Captain Richard Teo takes a hard look at the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and the accompanying Code. He identifies some shortfalls and bats for a paradigm shift that would place greater emphasis on competence-based training and assessment. Captain Teo is a fellow at the Royal Institution Singapore/Manila; visiting lecturer at the Australian Maritime College (University of Tasmania); and Board member at GlobalMET.
In 2019 Filipino seafarers sent home a whopping $6,539,246,000. The amount represents 80% of their basic salaries, which is required by law to be remitted as family allotments and paid in Philippine currency. Alas, not all of the money went to the families. Unscrupulous manning agents got to keep part of it by using an exchange rate that is usually a peso lower than the official rate of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines).
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the European Maritime Safety Agency to suspend its inspection visits to non-EU countries supplying crews to EU-flagged vessels. Between 2005 and 2019, EMSA had racked up a total of 75 such visits… Wouldn’t it be better if the EMSA inspections were scrapped altogether? Shouldn’t each EU member state be allowed, as a matter of sovereign right, to decide whether seafarers from outside the EU are up to standard and to hire them according to their needs?
The shipping industry has a strong fetish for buzzwords. The latest to ring loud and clear is “crew change” — a slogan spawned by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent stranding at sea of thousands of seafarers. Interestingly, nowhere in ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, as amended can one find the phrase “crew change”. Instead, MLC 2006 talks of repatriation (the word is mentioned 37 times in the main body).
Seafarers don’t expect to be treated like royalty. They just want to carry on without the encumbrances that make working at sea less than satisfying and with the respect from other people that they deserve. The following is a sequel to my earlier post, ’35 things that make like more difficult for seafarers’.
Most men are fascinated with cars. I am fascinated with seashells. Odd as it may sound, they remind me of the grandeur of cathedrals. I find the shell of the nautilus particularly interesting. Its spiral form is simple yet beautiful and elegant. Indeed, it is an architectural marvel as complex and enigmatic as the sea itself.
I recently learned a Japanese exercise from a programme shown on NHK World-Japan. It is called radio callisthenics or rajio taiso (literally, “radio gymnastics”) — so named because it was originally broadcast to music on public radio. I think it is ideal for seafarers and other maritime folks who don’t have all the time in the world to exercise.
Life is hard enough for seafarers without other people making it harder. Alas, there is no shortage of individuals, often including one’s kith and kin, who would take advantage of this group of workers. Ironically, some institutions and regulations are the very source of the exploitation and the suffering. The following is a list of things many seafarers have to put up with as they struggle to build a better future for themselves and their families.
Old sailors and old fishermen always fascinate me. The former are often referred to as “sea dogs” or lobos de mar in Spanish. Sailor or fisherman, the appellation is entirely appropriate. These men are hardy spirits who cut their teeth on boats and spent many years at sea.
Who would not want to journey to Venice, the city beloved by famour artists and ordinary tourists alike? The English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, summed up its appeal in his poem ‘Julian and Maddalo: A Conversation’: “Its temples and its palaces did seem / Like fabrics of enchantment piled to Heaven.” Alas, not everyone has the means or the opportunity to visit the place. But no worries, the following artworks and poems will transport you blissfully to beautiful Venice.
Most men and women who work at sea, I suppose, eventually get used to being away from home. But sometimes the loneliness can be excruciating as in the case of seafarers who have been stranded amid the coronavirus pandemic. In such dire situations, it is the thought of being reunited with one’s family that can serve as a fountain of hope.
The following quotes deal with the family as an institution and with married life and parenting. I trust that these words of wisdom will inspire sea workers and help them to better appreciate the value of family ties.
There is an upside to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst strewing death and misery along its path, the coronavirus has cast light on the real character of individuals and nations, of entire institutions and industries. Here are some facts about the shipping world that it has brought into sharper focus: