With the drop in number of Filipino seafarers deployed in international shipping vessels, the local maritime industry has raised alarm among professionals. This is after the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) reported that the deployment of sea-based Filipino workers had decreased at around 65,000 in 2017, as compared to 2016. It was also reported that there were only 378,072 Filipino seafarers deployed in 2017, in contrast to the 442,820 in 2016. This amounts to a decrease of 64,748 seafarers.
Nelson Ramirez, president of globally-recognized union United Filipino Seafarers (UFS), commented that this decrease is not a mere abstraction but the reality of the situation. He viewed the situation as 64,748 unemployed seafarers with families and livelihoods at risk. Ramirez also expressed worry that the decrease in deployment may continue in the coming years due to the slowdown in global shipping and loss of principals and shipowners.
Maritime industry leaders also attribute the drop to the increase of ambulance chasers. Ambulance chasing happens when seafarers seek compensation based on false claims of injury. The prevalence of this scheme has discouraged foreign shipowners from hiring Filipino seafarers. Because these settlements cost millions of pesos, foreign employers prefer hiring seafarers from other countries.
President and CEO of CF Sharp Crew Management, Miguel Rocha, claimed that his agency lost 1,000 job vacancies abroad due to ambulance chasing schemes. He added that while Filipino seafarers are known for their trustworthiness, good communication and skills, and industriousness, things have become different because of recent events.
Cargo Safeway Inc.’s Captain Rey Casareo inferred that manning agencies are likely to lose $49 million in revenues by 2019, if ambulance chasers remain unchecked.
On solving the issue, Ramirez called on the Senate and the Congress to acknowledge the situation to prevent job losses. Ramirez explained, “We cannot afford to give way to the emerging markets of our counterparts what we have sown in the worldwide maritime business. Congress and Senate should formulate an enduring response to this problem—a bill that would defend our partners so our lifeblood will be preserved and protected.”
Letting these ambulance chasers run rampant may negatively affect the career prospects of numerous potential seafarers training in the Philippines. Corrective actions must be done to prevent further decrease in deployments. Trainees and future seafarers must also follow rules and regulations and never take part in ambulance chasing. It doesn’t only take technical skills to be a great seafarer, one must also have the right values and ethics.