Philippines သေဘၤာသား တို႔ အေၾကာင္း Filipino တစ္ေယာက္ ေရးသားထားေသာေဆာင္းပါး တစ္ပုဒ္
(စာေရးသူ၏ အာေဘာ္ သာျဖစ္ပါသည္)
False promise of a dream
BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa
The country is still producing too many maritime graduates who cannot be absorbed by the world market. When maritime schools advertise their services to, “sail around the world and earn in dollars,” parents who spend thousands of pesos for tuition fees and other cost must be warned of such empty promises.
Maritime schools have been in business in the Philippines for the past 40 years mainly because we have been the leading supplier of seafarers to the worldwide shipping industry. Since the 1970s, Filipino seafarers have been the choice of ship owners worldwide because of their mastery of the English language.
Before that, when the walls of Berlin went down, there was an abundance of seafarers from Eastern bloc nations. However, after a couple of years, they questioned their low salaries, and demanded equal pay with their western counterparts.
That scenario was similar to that old joke about East German prostitutes complaining about the lower prices they fetch compared to the West German prostitutes even if they offer the same services. After that brouhaha, ship owners stopped hiring Eastern bloc seafarers as they were no longer competitive.
Next came the Chinese seafarers who could be hired at a very low rate. However, their English skills were lacking. Plus, cultural differences emerged as the seafaring life did not sit well with the Chinese who did not want to be away from their families for prolonged periods of time.
Then there were the Indonesian seafarers. However, just like the Chinese, they too were lacking in English skills. Moreover, since most Indonesians are Muslims, they had a hard time getting visas to Western ports, especially after the 9/11 attacks in the US.
Myanmar, likewise, deployed seafarers, but their numbers were so small they could not even muster 15,000 seafarers to serve overseas. And just like the Chinese and Indonesian seafarers, their English skills are lacking.
A major source of seafarers
Today, there are only two major sources of seafarers for the worldwide shipping industry – India and the Philippines. However, Filipinos are still preferred by ship-owners. Indians are known to be argumentative, while Filipinos are more amiable. Moreover, Filipino seafarers are still cheaper than their Indian counterparts.
This notwithstanding, the compensation package is still attractive. Filipino ship captains still get anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000 a month. The lowest-ranked officers get $2,500 a month, while the ordinary seaman gets $1,500 to $2,000 a month.
These rates are net to the seafarers as they hardly have any expenses onboard. They don’t pay rent, have no expenses for food, transportation, uniforms, and the like. Food onboard the ships are always good, as the ship owners try to compensate their crew with good food to make up for the lonely life at sea.
The estimated contribution of seafarers is about $6 billion a year in inward dollar remittances through the banks and other informal channels. Compared to other overseas Filipino workers, seafarers are the biggest contributors of foreign exchange per capita.
However, technology has caught up with the shipping industry, and the number of seafarers employed has gone from an average of 25 crewmembers down to 15 crewmembers per vessel.
With satellite navigation, computerized machinery, safety equipment, and many more new gadgets being developed, the need for additional manpower onboard the ships has significantly been reduced.
Plus with the increased demand for goods worldwide, ships are now bigger, faster and more efficient. Advances in technology also have aided shipyards to build more ships at a faster rate. It has also become easier now to replace old vessels for scrap.
With all these developments in the shipping industry, we need to call the government’s attention to the big social problem plaguing the industry. We have 93 maritime schools accredited by the government, churning out 20,000 graduates per year.
In 2010, we deployed 82,000 officers and 125,000 ratings. This does not include the 80,000 to 100,000 Filipinos serving the cruise vessels as they are considered hotel staff.
We only need 5,000 graduates yearly to replace retiring seafarers and to meet the new labor demands of ship owners. The question we ask now is: what do we do with the remaining 15,000 graduates yearly who cannot find employment? The maritime education sector is currently guilty of promising a false dream.
To properly educate a seaman, the maritime schools must follow the system of industrialized nations, that is, the 2-1-1 method: two years in school, one year as a cadet onboard, and one more year back to school before graduation.
The 2-1-1 system is effective as the absorption rate of the students is high, since they have been onboard from their third year. In the Philippines, the condition of the CHED is three years of schooling and one year cadetship onboard.
The problem here is that less than 10 percent of maritime students experience the 2-1-1 system. Most of the maritime schools have a hard time getting cadets onboard ships for cadetship training. Only a few good maritime schools have a tie-up with foreign principals for their cadets to train onboard their ships.
We only have three training ships in the Philippines, two of which are private (NYK and MO of Japan), and the remaining one being public, care of the Japanese Seaman’s Union.
Wake up call
We are calling on government to take a deep look at the oversupply of maritime graduates in our country. Every year, 15,000 maritime students do not get the opportunity to practice what they’ve been studying for.
One way of reducing maritime schools in the country is to require the latter to be equipped with a minimum number of electronic equipment like bridge simulators. The end result will be better quality maritime schools with better quality graduates.
The government must stop issuing new licenses for maritime schools unless they can prove that they can put up a higher standard of maritime education and can manage the 2-1-1 system.
The promise of “sailing around the world and earning dollars” is no longer a dream but a nightmare to victimized parents and students.