The COVID-19 pandemic has caused various consequences on how people are living their everyday lives. From their personal activities to their work, Filipinos have been greatly affected by the virus and the subsequent lockdowns as a result of attempts to flatten the curve. The seafaring industry has also fallen victim to the effects of the virus on society, from limited operations down to maritime training in maritime training centers. But what are the specifics of these effects exactly, and what is the industry doing in addressing it? Read below.
On a general scale, the required training has been delayed until further notice much like classes have been discontinued in schools. This is so students and trainees don’t have to attend sessions and risk their health in doing so.
On March 10, 2020, MARINA announced that in accordance with STCW Advisory No. 2020-04, they would be suspending maritime training courses in Metro Manila starting March 11 until March 14. Later on, MARINA Advisory No. 2020-14 was announced on March 13 where they extended the suspension of all training subjects in NCR until April 12 (subjected to change after quarantine). This also included examinations and assessments for trainees. As for the maritime training centers outside NCR, their decision to suspend was left at their discretion.
In line with the suspensions mentioned above, extensions in the renewals of certificates of proficiency (COP) were set in place to complement them. This is because said renewals are dependent on being able to get refresher training beforehand. With training sessions being held back to later dates, this also affects the ability of seafarers to get the courses needed in time to meet the deadlines of their certificates.
With that, also in line with MARINA Advisory No. 2020-14, the STCW certificates of Filipino seafarers stationed in vessels affected by the COVID-19 crisis in some way had their validity extended by 2 months beyond their expiration. Additionally, the final date for submission of certain requirements – including passing “theoretical and practical assessments” were extended to a later date (to be determined).
The situation of the pandemic in the Philippines as of now is still quite shaky. That is why even with maritime training being an important engagement, the concern for health is still greater at the end of the day. With this, organizations need to continue making the effort to adjust, suspend, and extend if need be to accommodate the lives of trainees as well as the guidelines for social distancing.
But it doesn’t stop there of course. Individuals need to do the same in order for the curve to flatten so maritime training can go back to how it is. In the meantime, for the ones that are out and about such as seafarers in the frontlines, we must always learn to appreciate their efforts in making lives easier for people in quarantine. Trainees can follow their heroic example when they finish all the needed courses and are put on the frontlines should something of this scale happen again. But for now, the best thing trainees can do is to stay at home while they wait for training to start again and to read up on maritime lessons for productivity’s sake.