For the nth time since 2006, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is conducting another inspection in the Philippines to verify its complaince with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). It normally inspects non-EU countries supplying crews to EU-flagged ships once every five years. This entire thing has been a never-ending fandango. All the dancers have been going round and round to the STCW music. They must be tired by now, so why not cut to the chase? In my view, the EMSA team needs to ask only three questions at this stage.
Do the Filipinos clearly understand the nature and purpose of the EMSA inspections?
If so, why do folks in Manila keep talking about the country passing or failing the inspections? There is no such thing as “pass” or “fail” in audits. Yet, these terms have been embedded in the vocabulary of top officials of the Maritime Industry Authority and the maritime schools.
Why do new deficiencies surface every time EMSA conducts an inspection?
Are the EMSA inspectors nitpicking? Or are those in charge of the Filipino seafarer factory, the private sector players included, not doing everything that they are supposed to do?
Is there now proper State oversight over the maritime schools?
If so, why hasn’t there been a drastic reduction in the number of academies with baccalaureate
programmes for future ship officers? There are still 87 in operation, not counting the schools for ratings. A corollary question: Have the state regulators done away with the use of private sector individuals for school inspections — a practice that has raised the issue of conflict of interest?
All three questions are easy to answer, I believe.