PH tops global provider of seafarers, officers — UNCTAD

Published November 18, 2021, 10:15 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The Philippines was the top provider of seafarers globally followed by three other Asian countries suppliers Indonesia, China and India, according to a report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The UNCTAD’s Review of Maritime Transport 2021 published Thursday, Nov. 18, said that the Philippines topped as provider for both seafarers and officers. Indonesia took third place for ratings and fifth for officers.

China was third for officers and fourth for ratings, and India was fourth for officers and fifth for ratings. The Russian Federation was the other country in the top five list.

UNCTAD also cited the critical economic contribution of seafarers for the supplier countries. For instance, UNCTAD said the Philippines earned $6.5 billion in 2019 from its seafarers. However, this fell by 2.8 percent in 2020, to $6.4 billion.

The crew change crisis that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has left hundreds of thousands of seafarers stranded at sea long beyond their contract time, and others unable to sign up for their time at sea.

UNCTAD has called for urgent attention from flag, port and labour-supplying states, in collaboration with relevant international organizations, to end this crisis.

The UNCTAD review further noted Asia predominance in global maritime trade strengthened in 2020, as it maintained a 41 percent share of total goods loaded, increased its volume of goods discharged and remained the largest seafarer supply region in the world.

Meantime, UNCTAD said that while the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted discussions about resilience, reducing reliance on distant manufacturing, especially in Asia, the report also concluded that an outright end to globalization per se is unlikely. China is expected to remain a leading manufacturing site in the near future.

UNCTAD stated that discussions over the future of globalization have ushered calls to take a fresher look at the configuration of the extended supply chains to reduce heavy reliance on distant suppliers. Some are arguing that reshoring and nearshoring will accelerate, resulting in deep reconfiguration of supply chains.

In addition, container volumes from Asia to North America dropped by 13 percent between the fourth quarter of 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 but jumped by 36 percent in the third quarter of 2020, reflecting a surge in cargo flows to meet consumer demand.

Trade on the Asia-Europe route declined by 2.6 percent in 2020. By comparison, trade on the Asia-Europe route declined by 2.6 percent in 2020, UNCTAD said.

Asia maintained its position as the global hub for container traffic, with nearly two thirds being handled at Asian container ports although its container throughput declined by a marginal 0.4 percent in 2020, according to the report.

The liner shipping connectivity of the continent also outperformed other regions, with the top five most-connected economies in the second quarter of 2021 being in Asia – China, Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region, China), Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Singapore.

In addition, UNCTAD said that Asia leads the way when it comes to women holding port management and administrative roles. UNCTAD uses data from its TrainForTrade Port Management program to benchmark countries using a port performance scorecard. In the category measuring female participation in the port workforce, Asian members were above average for women in management and administrative roles, at 52 percent – compared to 39 percent in Europe.