By Dr. Bernardo Villegas
Last February 16, 2019, The Economist carried an article entitled “Unsung Filipino seafarers power the global economy.”
The figures are impressive: “Today, more than nine-tenths of global trade (by weight) is carried by sea, on some 100,000 merchant vessels drawing on a pool of 1.2 million mariners. Of these, well over a quarter, 378,000 are Filipinos—by far the biggest number by country of origin.”
According to Engineer Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers, Filipino seafarers are appreciated for the following qualities: They speak English. They work hard. They are well trained in the scores of marine colleges all over the country. They are adaptable to any job assignment, “pliant like the bamboo.” No wonder that they represent only 3 percent of all Overseas Filipino Workers but account for 15 percent of the remittances of more than $30 billion annually.
Despite their significant contributions to the economy, not enough is being done for Filipino seafarers by either the government or the private sector.
As pointed out in the article that appeared in The Economist, they are often victimized by unscrupulous operators who tempt seafarers into launching spurious injury claims against ship operators and then pocket the bulk of the damages.
There are times when shipowners vanish behind brass plates and leave crews stranded and unpaid.
Then there is the myriad of official documents and certificates that they have to present as they travel from one port to another.
That is why one of the aims of the party-list Angkla is to get the Maritime Industry Authority, a government agency, to set up regional branches so that seafarers do not have to travel all the way to the National Capital Region to renew their seaman’s passbook.
And that is only one of the numerous documents that they have to keep updated.
Fortunately, an application of blockchain technology is being considered by the Philippine maritime industry to help seafarers cope with their documentation challenge which can occupy a lot of their very limited time on shore.
An entrepreneur I met when I was a visiting professor at the IESE Business School, Mr. Anjaney Borwarnkar, recently introduced to the Philippines the services of a company he established in Singapore.
The firm is called Navozyme and has the mission to enhance lives in the maritime industry via innovative technology solutions that raise the safety, the productivity, and the reputation of the global maritime industry.
Navozyme’s blockchain-enabled platforms will help maritime stakeholders to securely exchange real-time critical data related to ship and seafarers’ certifications.
The platform can be used to manage complex processes related to maritime training, certifications, port clearances, etc.
Navozyme will bring the Philippine maritime industry to the fourth industrial revolution, specifically through two solutions.
The first one is N-MAP (Navozyme-Maritime Authentication Platform) which is targeted at ship owners/managers/operators port authorities, classification societies and agencies who handle the port-clearance processes for ship’s entry into a port.
With the blockchain-enabled platform, the maritime stakeholders will be able to share authentic real-time information in a secure manner. N-MAP can increase productivity, reduces costs and enhance safety standards and reputation of the stakeholders.
Video about the NMAP can be viewed at hhttps://www.navozyme.com/ncap.
The second is called N-CAP (Navozyme-Certificate Authentication Platform).
This platform can bring about productivity gains and eliminate paper-based risks and processes related to maritime certifications.
Maritime training institutions, shipping companies/manning agents (who hire seafarers) and individual seafarers can benefit from N-CAP as certificate information now can be shared in a secure and digital manner among permissioned stakeholders.
N-CP also aids shipping companies with easier GDPR compliance. A video about N-CAP can be viewed at https://www.navozyme.com/ncap.
The people behind Navozyme should be thanked for enhancing the welfare of the oftentimes unsung Filipino seafarers who will be around for many more decades to come even if land-based Overseas Filipino Workers may dwindle as the Philippine economy transitions to First World status and is able to significantly reduce mass poverty.
Since seafaring is an occupation or profession that comes naturally to many Filipinos, we will always have them earning substantial foreign exchange for the Philippines even as we reduce the number of Filipinos who go to work abroad because of economic necessity.
Thanks to technologies like those of Navozyme, Filipino seafarers today and tomorrow will have less trouble coping with the many documentation challenges inherent to the seafaring profession.
For more information in Navozyme, please visit www.navozyme.com.