Gov’t slow on domestic ship modernization – UFS

Published November 4, 2018, 3:24 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Raymund Antonio

The government has been slow in the implementation of the domestic ship modernization program that seeks to ensure safe sea travel, a seamen’s group said over the weekend.

The United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), a globally-recognized union of maritime professionals with 57,000 members, voiced concern over the “derailed realization” of the longtime plan to modernize the country’s maritime vessels.

“We are asking the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) for concrete details and dates when is (sic) the jumpstart of these modernization efforts,” UFS President and Engineer Nelson Ramirez told the Manila Bulletin.

“It looks like they are just making a fool of us because we have not seen any changes, especially in the shipbuilding industry. They more prioritize efforts to entice players to build cruise ships, but we don’t have a single cruise ship,” he added.

The union leader of seafarers slammed the MARINA and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for their failure to ensure the seaworthiness of vessels for their safe and efficient operations at sea in the wake of maritime incidents.

‘Floating coffins’
Ramirez said that second-hand vessels, which he called “floating coffins,” from other countries like Japan, South Korea, among others, are plying Philippine waters.

“Most of the second-hand ships are purchased in the 70’s. And still these ships are traveling domestic. If we do the math, roughly 50 years of service for a ship. Imagine how horrible is that,” he stressed.

Ramirez revealed that these old imported vessels are being brought directly to the dry dock and will be remodified to make it appear brand new by painting and patching its dilapidated parts.

“Knowing the Filipino shipowners maintain their vessels here in the country, they will make it sturdy by means of altering, even though it already loses stability,” he said.

Complicity at play?
He said these ships remain voyaging along the seas because some of MARINA personnel mandated to inspect vessels and issue Certificate of Convenience (COC) allowed them to sail.

“Who are conducting the maritime safety inspections? Who are issuing the Certificate of Convenience? It is PCG and MARINA, right?” Ramirez asked.

“Who are the maritime experts involved in the planning of the maritime development plan? If they are the same people who issue COCs to those floating coffins, do we expect changes?” he added.

The UFS then cited the previous maritime tragedies involving “obsolete” ships in terms of seaworthiness.

Naming a few, Ramirez mentioned the sinking of M/V Kimelody Kristy (1995), M/V Carmela1 (2002), Baleno 9 (2009), Maharlika 2 (2014) and M/V Kim Nirvana (2015).

“Instead of opening our eyes to the real cause of the sinking, maritime authorities like Marina and PCG are concocting fairy tales, like the whirlpool theory, just to cover up their negligence and the negligence of the ship owners,” he said.