Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday warned that Chinese seafarers, whose deployment in international vessels has shown a significant increase last year, will soon beat Filipino seafarers in numbers.
Locsin sounded the alarm bell in reaction to reports that over 120,000 Chinese seafarers served on international, non-China vessels last year.
“They will soon beat Filipino seafarers in numbers. Why we need to man up and fix what’s wrong with our maritime schools,” Locsin said in a tweet.
According to the foreign secretary, the government should make initial steps by prohibiting anyone in government to operate maritime schools in the country.
“First step, no government official whether or not involved in maritime affairs should be allowed to own a maritime school period,” he said.
Locsin’s suggestion was borne out of the ongoing audit being conducted by the European Commission on whether to extend or terminate the recognition of the Philippines’ education, training, and certification system for Filipino seafarers sailing under the flags of the European Union (EU) member states.
Should the Philippines fail to convince the EU that it has complied with all the standards required for its seafarers before the end of this year, as many as 50,000 Filipino seafarers under European flags would stand to lose jobs with their European principals.
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) is expected to issue the result of their audit of the country’s maritime training systems compliance with Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) sometime in September this year.
In an article posted on June 28, 2021, the Sea Trade Maritime News reported that the demand for Chinese seafarers surged last year due to the difficultly of making crew changes following the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Philippines has repatriated thousands of seafarers from all over the world since the COVID-19 pandemic started in February 2020.
An official from the China Maritime Safety Administration was quoted as saying that the “new high record” for China to send over 120,000 seafarers to other countries last year, was a “breakthrough” for China which currently boasts of having the world’s largest seafarers pool.
The Chinese maritime agency said the overall number of registered Chinese seafarers was 1,716,866 by the end of 2020, an increase of 3.5 percent year on year. This roster includes 258,896 female seafarers.