Global Maritime Industry Need the Filipinos

Filipino seamen, especially Ilonggos, are urged to fill the global shortage of qualified seafarers.

Stein Eriksen, President of the Philippine-Norway Business Council said there is a bigger opportunity for qualified Filipino seafarers as the world’s shipping industry is facing a looming global shortage.

He said over 90 percent of goods transported worldwide are on board vessels of any kind and the demand continues to increase every year. The task of transporting these goods is undertaken by an estimated 1.3 million seafarers currently sailing across the seas.

“Imagine the world without shipping and seafarers,” Eriksen said, even as he emphasized that there is a current shortage of 50,000 qualified seafarers worldwide and this number is expected to double by 2015.

Eriksen noted that that the Philippines is the leading supplier of seafarers.

Of the estimated 1.3 million seafarers in the world, Filipinos account for more than 350,000. There are also approximately 20,000 Filipinos on board Norwegian-owned ships.

Along with other representatives of the 16 member companies comprising the Norwegian Shipowners Association (NSA), Eriksen was tendered dinner by the John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University (JBLFMU), Asia’s first maritime university based here.

During the dinner, Eriksen and his confreres underlined the “increased pressure to get qualified seafarers” with the global financial crisis gradually easing off. He pointed out that even during the period when some 30 percent of total vessels worldwide were not sailing, there was a shortage of from 27,000 to 30,000 qualified maritime officers.

Also, Eriksen pointed out that the biggest shipping organization of cargo owners in the world, the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO), in a survey undertaken in 2010, also indicated an “increased shortage of seafarers in the next years until 2015, even as in the next three years, up to 8,000 ships to be built, opening job opportunities for some 80,000 seafarers.

He said of the estimated 1.3 million seafarers, 350,000 are Filipinos and of this number, around 5,000 to 6,000 are active sailing officers. However, he added that there is a need to increase the number of officers in the next years.

Eriksen, who is also managing director of the Norwegian Training Center in Manila, challenged Philippine maritime schools to raise its academic standards for its graduates to be highly qualified in the international shipping industry.

He noted that there are 95 maritime schools taking in some 60,000 to 65,000 students but only 5,000 of these maritime students who enroll annually are qualified to work in international ships and become officers.

“There are many seafarers. What the industry needs are qualified seafarers,” Eriksen stressed.

To address this problem, the JBLFMU has a strict screening policy regarding students enrolling in maritime courses.

“We have increased the passing rate for enrollees to 70%,” said Dr. Mary Lou Lacson Arcelo, JBLFMU chairperson.


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