Inspectors from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) will be in Manila shortly to check once more on the country’s compliance with the STCW convention. Unless they are wearing blinkers, they cannot possibly overlook one basic fact: there is still a glut of maritime schools. Official figures as of July 2019 show a total of 87 institutions authorised to offer the BS Marine Transportation and BS Marine Engineering programmes (the complete list can be downloaded here).
That number, which is inclusive of satellite campuses, may not seem much for a nation that accounts for a large chunk of seafarers serving on the world merchant fleet. But given Manila’s patchy record in supervising the maritime schools, it makes one wonder: how many are really up to standard? The same question has been bugging the EMSA inspectors. Why else would they come a-visiting for the nth time?
The EMSA head office in Lisbon has not explained its basis for selecting which schools to audit at a given time. What is clear is that the EMSA team cannot, for practical reasons, inspect all schools. For that would require continuous visits over a period of ten years (assuming the inspectors are able to audit at least eight schools every year). Besides, EMSA ‘s main concern is the overall system and state oversight on individual institutions.
Much less can EMSA be expected to address the issue of maritime diploma mills. That is the job of the Manila government. Unfortunately, padlocking schools known to be substandard requires political will. Some Draconian measures may be in order. It would be a bloody war marked by lawsuits and recriminations in the press. But such a war is necessary for the sake of all the maritime students and their parents who may be paying good money for a lousy education. is there one stout-hearted enough to fire the canons?
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