February 8, 2023

Juan Kabayan

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Denmark lauds Marcos assurance of maritime rules compliance

THE government of Denmark on Thursday lauded the assurance of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the Philippines will comply with the standards set by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) for Filipino seafarers.

Danish Ambassador Franz-Michael Mellbin said shipowners from his country are among the major employers of Filipino mariners, and Marcos’ resolving the issue over their certification before the European Union in his recent trip to Belgium is a very welcome development.

the Philippines Franz-Michael Mellbin (left) gestures as he answers questions from The Juan Kabayan Chairman and CEO,
Dante ‘Klink’ Ang 2nd during a roundtable interview at the Times’ newsroom in Intramuros, Manila on Thursday, Dec. 22,

DANISH AMBASSADOR VISITS THE TIMES Danish ambassador tothe Philippines Franz-Michael Mellbin (left) gestures as he answers questions from The Juan Kabayan Chairman and CEO,Dante ‘Klink’ Ang 2nd during a roundtable interview at the Times’ newsroom in Intramuros, Manila on Thursday, Dec. 22,2022. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

“Denmark is very, very happy with Filipino maritime professionals, and it will be a very great loss to the industry and the Philippines if that is not an option anymore,” Mellbin told The Juan Kabayan in an exclusive interview.

“European certification is the worldwide certification; it’s the standard. Filipinos are not going anywhere else if it drops out of the system. So, that’s a very, very important issue,” he said.

The Philippines was called out by the EMSA over the “substandard quality” of maritime education and training of seafarers.

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Mellbin said the problem stems from many maritime schools focusing more on the business side of things without exerting much effort on improving the quality of their educators, curriculum and facilities.

“The problem is, the Philippines has had this for so many years. You have so many substandard maritime schools because they are run as a business. There is nothing wrong if you run a school as a business. But there is something wrong if your business[es] don’t invest in teachers, don’t invest in equipment, don’t invest in curriculum… You get substandard maritime professionals,” he said.

President Marcos, who attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-European Union (Asean-EU) Commemorative Summit in Brussels last week, assured European transport officials and businessmen that his administration is addressing the problem during his meeting with the International Maritime Employers Council.

He informed the council that he has ordered the creation of an advisory board to address the flagged deficiencies which could lead to Filipino seamen being blackballed by European shipowners.

Marcos also assured that the Philippine government is working double time to address certification issues of Filipino seafarers and make them compliant with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention.

Marcos reiterated that compliance with EU and EMSA standards is “not discretionary” since the livelihood of around 400,000 Filipino maritime workers across the globe is on the line.

An estimated 50,000 Filipino seamen are employed by European firms.

Although pleased with what the Marcos administration is already doing, Mellbin said more has to be done, and quickly, since “it is now crunch time” with EMSA’s deadline for compliance almost up.

“We want to work with Filipino seafarers. They are good, reliable partners… The EMSA did not extend the certification [deadline] for December. That doesn’t take effect immediately, but if you don’t take a new position, it’s gonna run out,” the ambassador said.

“The Philippine government, fortunately, is aware of it. They are aware that there is a serious problem that needs attention… And we will support that process. Denmark wants to cooperate with the Philippines,” he said.