Introduction in Socio-Economic
Seafaring has proven to be a reliable employment activity for our region’s seafarers since the past few decades. With a stable job, our sea-based workers have been able to literally satisfy very well their families since this profession gained ground.
Jobs, skills, training, taxes, goods and writing services are just few of the terms that we will meet and eventually elaborate on as we enumerate the socio-economic contribution of seafarers in general. We will have a concrete picture of this transcendental matter as we talk about Bicolano seafarers starting with their profile as viewed from a standard point of view.
Having a quick access to a document containing ready information about Filipino seafarers, their personal and professional circumstances and their important role in the society has long been the desire of ship owners and managers, officers of international agencies, associations and other interested parties. This report is a humble attempt to come up with a more or less simplified documentation about Bicolano seafarers as an important group of workers in our region.
It is often cited that the Philippines provides a significant number of seafarers employed on board ships which are engaged in international trade. To have available printed materials not only regarding their professional and personal circumstances but also of their achievements is admittedly a much-appreciated development.
To generate a dependable profile of Filipino seafarers, maritime authorities and those who are interested in the industry conducted surveys since October 2002 both among seafarers themselves and students enrolled in maritime schools. They also interviewed crewing managers, heads of government agencies and trade union officers to augment results of these surveys. Complementing all data gathered were information offered by the respective websites and publications of the interviewees.
The November 2003 report of Dr. Amante S. V. Maragtas entitled Philippine Global Seafarers: A Profile under the auspices of the Cardiff University Seafarers International Research Center (SIRC) presented basic socio-economic characteristics, as follows:
- Seafarers surveyed have an average age of 37 years
- ABs aged 34 years
- Junior Officers aged 40 years, and
- Senior Officers aged 44.
Maragtas, Dr. Amante S.V., “Philippine Global Seafarers: A Profile”, Cardiff University SIRC, November 2003.
The results show slight variations with the university research center’s 2003 seafarer database. Based on its 2003 crew list survey, Filipinos on average are 38 years old. In contrast, the world average is 36 years. Filipino junior officers are younger at 34 years, while senior officers are 46 years old on average. The relatively high average age of junior officers indicates often lengthy prior employment as ratings. At present, however, it is observed that the use of state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, apparatus and instruments like simulators has drastically lowered the average age of seafarers now placed in various destinations as their exposure in laboratories alone already satisfy their required training hours before finally going onboard.
Employment-wise still in 2003, the SIRC survey showed that 9 percent of Filipinos were employed as senior officers, 19 percent worked as junior officers and a substantial 72 percent were employed as ratings.
As to educational qualification, seafarers normally undergo a four to five year course college degree. It could either be nautical studies or marine engineering. These programs are particularly designed for those who aspire to become officers. On the other hand, other maritime schools offer associate degrees to those who would later find employment as ratings, but they can come back to continue their studies, take the licensure examination and qualify as officers. The effect of the recent enactment of Rep. Act No. 10533 known as the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 to efforts to produce more competent maritime graduates in the Philippines remains to be seen starting school year 2018-2019 when the pioneer graduates under the law shall have enrolled in maritime education institutions.
Aside from education, seafarers must also undergo maritime training which updates the competencies of their performance as officers or ratings. This training is required so that they can secure the required certification pursuant to STCW ’95, as amended, consistent with the standard of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Eventually, after studies, they must undergo shipboard training or cadetship to use their knowledge and skills into practice. It is an on the job training of sort for maritime students.
Another edge that Filipino seafarers have is their good grasp of the English language. As a legacy of the American colonization, this has been the medium of instruction in educational institutions in the country, including maritime schools.
This short study has presented in simple terms the profile of Bicolano seafarers and their contribution to their families, the community and to the country’s economy. In effect, it introduced Filipino seafarers to the public by outlining their qualifications, traits and peculiarities. While emphasis was made on the different maritime courses as stepping stone for improving the lives of its graduates, the impact of other professions to the community was also given citation.
National Maritime Polytechnic, “Stress Management Profile of Filipino Seafarers Execcutive Summary, Tacloban City, September 2006.
The consequences of the employment of our seafarers had to be given light because of the variety of benefits they bring to different sectors. From having a contented family members to being active in their social and religious undertakings, our seafarers are admittedly considered a favored group of workers in our society today, very much comparable to other practicing professionals and industry experts. At the same time, this study has provided opportunity to rectify opinions about and clear the reputation of most seafarers who are unwittingly dragged into situations that ruin their character because of isolated charges against some of their peers particularly those affecting their morals and certain values.
It is finally hoped that through this work, seafaring industry will continue to flourish not only in the Bicol region but in the entire country so that our seafarers can sustain their contribution to the entire global maritime sector.