There is no hiding the fact that industries are drenched in anxieties over the prevalence of the current economic crisis affecting the global village. Same concern drove Filipino Association for Mariners’ Employment (FAME) to raise attention from the Philippine maritime sector with the aim of eliciting effective frameworks for practical actions to ensure the sustainability of the Philippine Seafaring Industry, and stimulate economic recovery.

Held 18th of March 2009 at the Hyatt Hotel and Casino Manila was the FAME Info-Series Symposium on the Shipping Crisis. In participation were some 166 representatives of both private and public companies involved with the ship-manning industry.

FAME President Marlon R. Roño kicked the event off with an uplifting address wherein he stressed that surely the present situation calls for immediate coping mechanisms from the sector. However, rather than to distress, he advised members to take this concern as an opportunity to explore avenues of cooperation and increase the country’s pool of qualified maritime officers and their competency. Hence, helping ship owners meet their expectations of safer shipping, and cost-efficient operations.

The symposium was favored by the presence of Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Marianito D. Roque as keynote speaker. The Secretary induced participants to maintain a positive outlook towards the stability of the industry amidst the gusts of current problem. According to him, the maritime industry continues to play a vital role in creating growth areas in the country and therefore displaying remarkable resilience: a resilience that cannot be overridden by the economic challenge at hand.

Other guest speakers came in the persons of Dr. Francisco G. Dakila Jr., Director for the Center for Monetary and Financial Policy of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP); Mr. Ragnar Nielsen, President and CEO for Masterbulk Pte. Ltd; Mr. Michael J. Estaniel, President for Trans-Global and Philippine Ambassador for the International Maritime Employer’s Committee (IMEC); Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac from the Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration (POEA); and, Administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Above mentioned presenters provided a triangulation of perspectives which helped carve, among participants, a broader look on the issue at hand. Dr. Dakila spoke of BSP policy-responses to challenges facing the Philippine economy, Mr. Nielsen and Mr. Estaniel explored viewpoints on the current situation at the ship-owners’ perspective, and Administrators Cacdac and Dimzon delivered the government’s response as regards to strategies and action plans undertaken in adherence to the said problem.

In salient quote, POEA and OWWA reported that the government is doing its best to ally with the business sector and bring about effective means to defend Philippine economy. POEA, according to DA Cacdac, issued series of directives to land-based and sea-based recruitment and manning agencies requesting reports of displacements of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) for which they can act on. Also, OWWA, according to Administrator Dimzon, have proposed stand-by funds to advance salaries among seafarers covering the first three months. The implementation of which is still being deliberated.

A workshop was conducted to gather remarks among participants in line with concerns on Principal and Crew Retention, Seafarers Competitiveness on Wages and Skills, Crew Training and Cadetship, and Risk Management on Crew Liabilities and Abandonment. After processing, Mr. Ericson Marquez, Co-Chairman of the Joint Manning Group and FAME Secretary, reported that the results of the workshop highlighted several needs. These include, in more important note, the need to support ship owners to keep vessels in operation thereby ensuring sustained employment of Filipino seafarers; and continuous bilateral support from the industry and the government to improve crew training and retraining on the areas of electronics, refrigeration, welding, etc.

Concluding the event, FAME former President Engr. Samuel T. Lim stated, “The Philippine Seafaring Industry would continue to thrive during this crisis, and even come out stronger… Only with the focused and persistent efforts by the manning industry to deal with the problem head-on and continuously adjust our macro crewing strategies would we able to sustain this industry.”