'No job losses, only job gains for RP seafarers'
MANILA, Philippines - Despite fears that more overseas Filipino workers (OFW) might lose their jobs amid the global financial crisis, manning agencies on Friday reported that there have been no job losses and only job gains for Filipino seafarers.
"As of now, we have not seen any substantial reduction in crew. The shipping market [even] enjoined a robust [performance] late last August 2008," Eric Marquez, co-chair of the Joint Manning Agency, told reporters during a press conference on Friday.
Marquez based his statement on the mandatory report submitted by 46 manning agencies to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
The Department of Labor and Employment has ordered all manning agencies to submit reports to POEA every two weeks in order to monitor the effects of the financial crunch on OFWs.
The report, which monitored the sea-based labor market from November 4, 2008 to January 7, 2009, indicated that there were five instances of vessels scrapped in the Philippines, 20 instances of vessels sold and four vessels laid up resulting to job losses of 365 officers and ratings.
But it added that there were 42 instances of new vessels delivered and 18 instances of transfer from other nationalities, resulting to job gains of 1,928 officers and ratings.
As such, Marquez said that overall there have been 1,563 job gains, effectively erasing the job losses.
Moreover, he said that orders for ship owners continue and that there is still a "critical shortage in Filipino crew."
"We expect the vessels ordered for 2009 will continue, we [also] expect 8,000 to 9,000 ships to be built from 2009 to 2012," he said.
He did, however, recognize the effect of the global financial crisis which forced their market to take a "180-degree reversal."
"If market rates take a downturn in the market, there will be a drastic change," he said.
Marquez said 750 vessels will scrapped in the next two years all over the world. These vessels, he said, approximately have 15,000 crewmen – about 30 percent of whom are Filipinos.
However, there are ship owners who opted to anchor off their ships while waiting for cargo instead of scrapping their vessels, effectively lessening the number of displaced seafarers.
And because of the "unpredictable" market, Marquez suggested that a special standby fund be put up to finance seafarers while they are unable to get their salary from the ship owners.
"We don't know until it happens, it depends on the market," he said.
Meanwhile, since only 46 of the 360 manning agencies complied to submit bi-weekly reports to the POEA, he advised the agency to come up with an advisory with more "teeth."