Filipino seafarers slam incompetence of Marina
MANILA, Philippines—More than a thousand seafarers, mostly belonging to the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), on Wednesday condemned the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) for mismanaging the maritime industry with its gross incompetence and utter lack of concern to the welfare of seafaring Filipinos.
The UFS-led seafarers gathered in front of Marina offices in Manila on Wednesday morning to dramatize their protest over the agency’s incompetence and mismanagement.
Mock up models of caskets painted in black to symbolize the “death” of the maritime industry were also brought in by the ralliers.
UFS president and rally organizer Engr. Nelson Ramirez said Wednesday they could no longer take sitting down the incompetence and weak leadership in Marina, which put their livelihood and profession at grave risk.
“The Filipino seafarers are disgusted and worried. Disgusted over the lack of foresight of Marina to confront problems and provide solutions and worried that if such incompetence continues, we will end up with no jobs,” Ramirez said during the protest rally.
Ramirez said foremost of these is the move of Marina to replace the official Seafarers Identification and Record Books (SIRB) document being given to legitimate seafarers with a piece of paper called “SIR Sheet” or Seafarers Identification Record Sheet.
He said this is the first time in the entire world and only in the Philippines that a government maritime agency issued a piece of paper instead of the “book.”
The Seaman’s Book, Ramirez said, is vital and essential to a seaman when boarding a vessel for work.
Marina, which has been giving out the SIRB for years, suddenly finds itself in short supply of such important document and decided to issue the SIR Sheet instead.
Ramirez said seafarers are already carrying their “Lenten crosses” by joining daily long lines just to secure the SIRB document only to find out at the end of the line that the document has been replaced with a sheet of paper that would embarrass them before foreign port and immigration authorities.
“We seamen are worried that when we reach other countries to board the vessels we have found jobs in, we will not be allowed to leave the airport to go to the port where our ship is,” Ramirez explained.
He added: “The authorities in the foreign country will find our MARINA pieces of paper strange and unfamiliar. Then, if we can get to our ships, the captains may not allow us to embark. This is the first time in the whole world that seamen carry sheets of paper instead of the passport looking Seaman’s Book. Only in the Philippines.”
Seafarers usually start queuing before midnight, long before the agency opens at 8 a.m. the next day.
Ramirez said seafarers also have to secure a Certificate of Proficiency (CoP) from Marina, which also takes a long time to obtain.
He said the unjustified shortage of the regular SIRB has resulted to the proliferation of fake Seaman’s Book and other seafaring certificates that are now being sold to unsuspecting victims.
Ramirez said Marina’s lack of foresight to resuscitate the dying local shipping industry and the agency’s lack of commitment on maritime safety have likewise contributed to the sorry state of the industry.
“Dahil sa unang tatlong buwan pa lang ni Dr. Max Mejia ay nagkaroon na kaagad ng dalawang major maritime disaster at nagkaroon na naman ng banggaaan ngayong bago sa Cavite. Idagdag pa ang promotion ng kapatid ni Atty. Bañas na ginawang head ng maritime safety na wala namang alam sa barko dahil driver lang dati (Because of the first three months of Dr. Max Mejia there have been two major maritime disaster already and recently, there’s a new collision in Cavite. Add to that the promotion of Atty. Bañas’ sibling who was made head of maritime safety but has no knowledge in shipping because he used to be a driver),” Ramirez said.
Ramirez has earlier filed a case against the Marina official for appointing relatives and close friends to juicy posts in the agency.
The UFS president said Marina’s weak leadership has compromised the livelihood of at least 80,000 seafarers currently serving in EU-flagged vessels with the imminent cancellation of their SCTW certificates as a result of the country’s failure to pass the second audit of EU’s European Maritime Safety Agency (Emsa) last October.
As a direct result of the Emsa failure, education and training certificates issued by the Philippine government to Filipino seafarers would no longer be honored by EU shipowners and regulators.
Ramirez said the future looks dimmer should Marina assume the maritime licensure function from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) pursuant to the new law recently passed assigning Marina as the single maritime agency.
“Ngayon pa lang, tagilid na ang industriya maritima at lalo ng lulubog sapagkat kukunin pa ng Marina ang licensure examination ng PRC, pati na ang CoC at CoE. Minadali ng Marina ang pagpatay ng ating industriya (As early as now, the maritime industry is on the edge and it will go down because Marina will get the licensure examination of the PRC, including the CoC and CoE. Marina is pushing for the early death of our industry),” he said.
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