It was a piece good news that the European Commission last week finally acknowledged the Philippine’s compliance with international maritime safety standards, lifting the proverbial Damocles sword that hanged over the heads of thousands of Filipino seafarers working on EU-accredited ships.

It was about a year ago when the Commission threatened to halt the recognition of Filipino maritime certificates due to the country’s non compliance with  the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers.

The Philippine government’s intervention, primarily through the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), to address the problematic training curricula in many maritime schools must have convinced the EU that this seeming problem had finally been addressed, a welcome sigh of relief to Filipino seafarers who had traditionally been dominating the global maritime industry workplace.

Transportation secretary Jaime Bautista had stated, in a statement welcoming the EU announcement, that it will benefit some 49,000 overseas maritime workers and their families.

To be sure, it was a long and ardous process of validation that was undertaken by the EU through an audit that began as early as 2016 that had flagged problems such as the proliferation of fake college diplomas among seafarers.

Many of these deep-seated problems have been rooted in the country’s maritime schools that churn out an estimated 30,000 maritime graduates annually. Apparently, many of these graduates’ credentials fell short of international standards on training and cerfication as the entire industry came under close EU scrutiny.

The recent passage of the Magna Carta for Seafarers at the House of Representatives is a step in the right direction to institutionalize the training standards for maritime workers, apart from codifying the rights and welfare of its individual workers. That is one thing that absolutely needs to be done.

But there are more challenges ahead in constantly upgrading the skills of Filipino seafarers. Afterall, they work in an industry that is dynamic in the use of modern maritime techonologies that are not necessarily taught in schools. The government and the industry itself has to be pro-active in identifying these issues and looking at them more as opportunities if the country wants to cement its reputation as the best provider of seafarers in the global work market.

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