Nigerian seafaring at risk over ban on 400, 000 Philippine professionals
Experts have warned that placing a sailing ban on over 400,000 Filipino seafarers from working on European Union-flagged vessels and effectively leaving them jobless will threaten global seafarers manpower and leave the world economy staggering.
An estimated 380,000 Filipino seafarers, or over a quarter of global merchant shipping crew members, are deployed on domestic or foreign-flagged shipping vessels.
Experts said, at the moment, Russian Seafarers are almost not available for merchant’s vessels due to the war in Ukraine, noting that if the Philippines seafarers’ workforce is also pulled out over the European Commission audit, the world economy would stagger.
More than 400,000 Filipino seafarers have been on edge since an audit conducted by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) indicated that the Philippines have not been complying with international maritime safety standards.
Earlier, in 2022, EMSA warned that the training and certification in Philippine maritime education institutions fell short of guidelines mandated by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). It had been on this warning since 2006.
While upholding the audit’s findings, it may no longer recognise the seafarers’ competency certifications, which will prohibit them from working on European Union-flagged vessels, effectively leaving them jobless.
The Philippines could also end up being excluded from the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) “white list” of countries with seafarer employability.
However, experts are also worried that Nigerian seafarers, who are trained in the Philippines maritime institutions and have their competence certification, may lose their jobs on the sea.
President, Maritime Professionals Forum (MARPRO), Capt. Akanbi Oluwasegun said the issues regarding the training deficiencies of the Philippine maritime institutions is a big threat to global manpower production.
He said while the Russian seafarers are almost not available for merchant vessels at the moment, pulling out the Philippines seafarers’ workforce would cause the world economy to stagger.
“I believe the Philippine Government is already addressing the findings and we hope the issues are resolved before the deadline,” he said.
He said the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) beneficiaries bearing Philippine licence, are equally being confronted with the possible ban from EU flagged vessels.
Oluwasegun said this the more reason why the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) needs to pursue its independence on seafarers training, by channelling the NSDP efforts towards developing the country’s maritime training standards.
He said Nigeria cannot continue to foster other nations’ institutions, while its own is fading.
The Former National President of the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers & Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Matthew Alalade, said the ban is a wake-up call for Africa.
He said Nigeria should make its Certificate of Competency recognised to support its seafarers, noting that the Philippines are generating billions of dollars from seafarers trade.
“About 400, 000 slots will be vacant in foreign flagged vessels. Nigeria should tap into this opportunity. If our certificate were being recognised or Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding with other countries, this is an opportunity for Nigeria to tap into the international labour market.
“We don’t have shipping and maritime policy in Nigeria. Let there be a policy that will empower our maritime institutions and seafarers to also be engaged in international trade,” he said.