The authorities have shut down the recruitment booths. Still, Manila’s Rizal Park, better known by its old name “Luneta Park,” endures as the place to solicit Filipino seafarers. You see them every day: young lads wading through the crowd of seafarers, holding up small pieces of cardboard or bond paper with hastily scribbled details of job openings. This system of hiring is crude, inefficient and so Third World. In the 21st century, there must be a better way.

The better alternative, of course, is online recruitment. Manning agents need not even have their own website. They can simply use Twitter as scores of businesses worldwide are doing. The following blurb from the Twitter site suggests how this micro-blogging service can revolutionise seafarer recruitment in the Philippines and other crew-supplying countries:

When people working in the Empire State Building twittered that they were craving ice cream delivery, New York local chain Tasti D Lite was there to listen and meet their need. When electronics buyers look for good deals, the Dell Outlet Twitter account helps them save money with exclusive coupons. When Houston’s coffee drinkers decide where to get their daily dose, many choose Coffee Groundz, which lets them order via Twitter.

Twitter messages, called Tweets, have a cap of 140 characters and can be read by a multitude the moment they’re uploaded. Seafarers can go to any cyber cafe to check the latest job postings (one hour of Internet access costs as little as 45 US cents in Manila). They can respond pronto and ask questions online. No more waiting under the trees at the Luneta.So why aren’t local manning companies relying on Twitter and other social media?

One reason is that they’ve not quite adapted to the ways of the Internet. The Philippines probably has close to 400 licensed crewing outfits; yet, only few have their own company websites. But culture is also a huge factor. One manning executive says Luneta allows the agency or its representatives to come face to face with seafarers. It’s the personal element that matters. Point well taken, but what if it rains in the Park? ~Barista Uno

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