Shipping operators seek improvements in maritime industry
CEBU CITY — The biggest group of shipping operators in the country has expressed hopes that the national government would help them improve the maritime sector as promised by President Marcos during a summit last week.
Lucio Lim Jr., chair of the Philippine Coastwise Shipping Association (PCSA), said prioritizing the maritime industry was long overdue as there’s much to improve on in the sector, including the creation of more shipyards and the need to enhance the training of seafarers.
“We very much welcome the statement of the President. (However), right now, we could say that we still lack enough buttons. We need more shipyards. There’s also a need to develop more and better ports, and of course, our seafarers’ training should also be attended to,” Lim told the Inquirer over the phone on Wednesday, March 8.
“We’re happy that the President is asking the Department of Transportation to focus on the maritime industry because we are a maritime-dependent nation. There was a plan to have a Department of Maritime during the previous administration. That could be a welcome development,” he added.
PCSA has around 50 members who own 800 ships, tankers, tugboats, and barges, among others, all over the country.
Meneleo Carlos III, chairman of the Shipyard Association of the Philippines (ShAP) said the national government should address the past experiences of some of their members being denied business permits due to the whims of some local officials and subjected to unnecessary red tape and other barriers to development.
“We, in the industry, commit to creating capacity, modernizing the capability, maintaining the seaworthiness, and keeping our maritime transport industry, all while providing quality skills and careers in the Philippines,” he said during the summit.
Carlos said shipyards, though not at the forefront, provide a fundamental role in the maritime industry.
“We look forward to the national government’s active development, steering, and monitoring of the successes, challenges, and operating environment faced by all stakeholders in the maritime industry. Working together, we will achieve the nationally integrated and globally competitive maritime industry that our country deserves.”
As of 2021, government data showed 116 shipyards across the country registered with the Maritime Industry Authority.
It’s not easy to close shipyards just because some local governments want to get rid of the facilities to pave the way for some projects, Carlos explained in a phone interview on March 2.
“The idea is even with all the resources, it’s not that easy to set up a maritime hub. Moving to another location alone is not easy, plus there are (government) permits that need to be complied with to build the facilities,” he said.
“The fleet is getting bigger and here, you are reducing (ship) repair facilities. We’re gonna lose a thousand ship repairs, and those (ship)yards can build 300 to 1,000 ships every year.”
In his speech during the Philippine Maritime Industry Summit 2023 at the Manila Hotel on Feb. 28, Marcos deemed it proper to make the maritime industry a top priority since the Philippines is a maritime nation.
Citing government data, Mr. Marcos said the Philippines is the world’s primary source of maritime manpower constituting 25 percent of the global seafarers and bringing in a total of $6.71 billion in remittances in 2022.
The President said nearly 16,000 registered domestic ships were plying the almost 1,300 inter-island shipping routes across the country as of Dec. 31, 2022 .
“While we already hold a dominant position in the world of global shipping, I certainly believe that we can do more, especially here at home. So, I encourage all government institutions and key stakeholders to collaborate, to cooperate to ensure the continued growth and development of this extremely important sector,” he said.
“As the leader, I assure you that this administration will give its unqualified support in your aspirations of building a Philippine maritime industry that will be looked upon with admiration by the region and the rest of the world,” he added.