Permanently disability and Seafarer’s Record Book / Identity Document

THE ISSUANCE or renewal of the Seafarer’s Record Book (SRB) and Seafarer’s Identity Document (SID) is now dependent on the medical fitness of a seafarer, specifically concerning permanently disabled seafarers.

The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) released Memorandum Circular No. MD-2019-01 Series of 2019 to enhance the security features of the Filipino SID and ensure its global interoperability and reliability. It is also meant to enhance existing system and streamline the processes and requirements in the issuance of SRB.

The SRB (formerly known as SlRB) refers to a document issued by MARINA to all Filipino seafarers and cadets/cadettes that serves as record of sea service of the holder on board ships of 35GT and above for commercial vessel and 50GT and above for fishing vessel.

The SID, on the other hand, refers to an International Identity Document under ILO Convention 185 used to obtain proof of the bearer’s eligibility for visa waiver and to identify them as genuine seafarers who may be entitled to transit with their passport at ports and border crossings, and to shore leave without a visa.

Under the said circular, seafarers who have been declared by a competent medical practitioner to be permanently disabled to board ship and who have been paid by the insurance for such disability shall no longer be allowed to renew or be issued SRB and SID.

In case that after such declaration of permanent disability, the SRB and SID is still valid the same shall be deemed automatically revoked.

Prior to its effectivity on January 2019, the MARINA does not consider the medical fitness of a seafarer in processing of SRB/SID, specifically for those declared permanently disabled. It merely mandates the submission of the certain documents such as the old SRB/SID, birth certificate, marriage contract (for married woman), valid National Bureau of Investigation clearance, certificate of completion for Basic Training (BT) and transcript of records (TOR) or completed academic requirements (CAR) for maritime courses (as applicable)

Such directive perhaps was issued in light of the several cases filed by seafarers for claims for disability compensation.

A seafarer’s disability becomes permanent and total when so declared by the company-designated physician or in case of absence of such a declaration either of fitness or permanent total disability, upon the lapse of the 120- or 240-day treatment period while the seafarer’s disability continues and he is unable to engage in gainful employment during such period, and the company-designated physician fails to arrive at a definite assessment of the seafarer’s fitness or disability.

Companies usually argue that under the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) contract, only those seafarers that are classified under Grade 1 disabilities are considered to have suffered total and permanent disability and therefore entitled to US$60,000 as disability benefits.

However, the POEA contract is not really reflective of the benefits that should be given to the seafarer based on the grading system. There are medical conditions that are classified as partial disability (between Grade 2 to 14) but in essence should have been considered as total permanent (Grade 1).

A total disability does not require that the employee be completely disabled, or totally paralyzed, as what is necessary is that the injury must be such that the seafarer  cannot pursue his or her usual work and earn from it. (Fil-Star Maritime Corp., et.al. vs  Rosete, G.R. No. 192686, Nov. 23, 2011)

Permanent disability is the inability of the worker to perform his job, regardless of whether or not he loses the use of any part of his body. (Philimare, Inc. vs Suganob, G.R. No. 168753, July 9, 2008)

Companies cannot deny the fact that a seafarer suffering from some medical conditions will be considered more of a liability than an asset if he is allowed to go on board the vessel. He would no longer be able to perform strenuous activities such as the rigorous duties of a seafarer.

The SRB shall be valid for 10 years and SID shall be valid for five years. SRBs issued to cadets/cadettes below 18 years of age shall be for shipboard training purposes only, with validity of three years.

The rules cover all Filipino seafarers, 18 years of age and engaged in any capacity onboard ships 35GT and above.  Filipino cadet/cadettes below 18 years of age may also be issued SID and SRB for shipboard training purposes only.

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Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786./PN

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