EMPLOYMENT opportunities for Filipino seafarers are depleting mainly due to the global shipping market downturn.
Captain Gaudencio Morales, president of Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines (ISP), told SunStar Bacolod that the decreasing deployment of seafarers started two years ago when many shipping companies in Korea, Japan, China and Europe went bankrupt.
Morales said the oil crisis had affected much those in the offshore industry and container vessel operations, which limited cargoes and resulted in many idle ships.
Citing the data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, he said that from about 406,000 in 2015, the total deployment of Filipino seafarers reduced to about 304,000 last year.
With this figure, the Philippines remains the number one supplier of seafarers in the world.
Visayas, including Negros Occidental, has remained to be the biggest supplier of seafarers in the country, at more than 50 percent.
“We are producing more than 20,000 seafarer-graduates every year, but the availability of jobs is only about 5,000 or 20 percent,” Morales said. “What will happen to the remaining 15,000 graduates, that is still the problem that remains to be unsolved.”
In Negros Occidental, the National Reintegration Center for Overseas Filipino Workers (NRCO) noted that unemployed seafarers venture into other jobs, mostly in business process outsourcing sector.
Aside from the global shipping market setback, the increasing cost of salaries is also contributing to the depletion of employment demand for Filipino seafarers.
Morales pointed out that shipping companies, especially smaller ones, look for lower cost seafarers so that their operation cost would also lower.
Other countries are also promoting aggressively their seafaring workforce thus, it might threaten that of the Philippines, he said.
“Filipino seafarers are still the number one choice of the world market, but if other nations are also stepping up their promotion measures, then we will surely have stiff competition," he added.
As one measure to limit the number of seafarer-graduates who can be employed, the government has already enforced strict compliance on the quality of maritime schools.
From more than 100 schools nationwide, only 75 are currently offering maritime courses.
The ISP believed that there is also a need to further improve the quality of performance of local seafarers as big companies would still invest on a more competitive workforce.
The organization also pointed out that the country needs to have local shipowners, which can be a long-term solution to the pressing woes on employment for Filipino seafarers.
“We are the only country whose domestic maritime industry is underdeveloped. We can actually engage in fishing and other maritime-related industries,” Morales said.
He also said that many Filipino seafarers wanted to be in the profession until they get old.
This is actually causing a problem to the industry as the younger generation cannot penetrate, he added.
Thus, the ISP is closely working with the NRCO for reintegration measures aimed at educating and changing the mindset of Filipino seafarers making them understand that “walang forever sa pagbabarko (there is no forever in seafaring).”
Recently, the ISP and NRCO launched the Business Plan Competition in Bacolod City which aims to encourage and capacitate seafarers in venturing into entrepreneurship as business and livelihood.