THERE was an unnecessary brouhaha in recent weeks about the reported impending closure of many maritime schools due to deficiencies and failure to meet training and education quality standards. The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) eventually denied it, to the relief of thousands of maritime students, their parents, and the schools concerned.
But let us all agree to this: We have to constantly upgrade the quality of our maritime education if we are to keep our competitive edge in the deployment of merchant ship officers to global labor markets. This is also about ensuring that our domestic ships here at home are run by the best sailors that live up to the highest operating and safety standards. We are after all an archipelago that relies heavily on efficient and safe inter-island shipping to move people and goods.
Two years ago it was reported that MARINA and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) agreed to have joint supervision over the quality of education programs for future ship officers with the goal of bolstering the global competitiveness of Filipino sailors in the years ahead. Is this being implemented now?
The number of Philippine-educated sailors and other staff deployed on foreign ocean-going vessels, including those on cruise ships and floating casinos, is likely increasing each year. As the global economy continues to grow, the enlistment of our sailors is expected to increase along with international ship traffic. With this, the cash sent home by overseas Filipino sailors via banks is projected to also increase, good for the economy.
MARINA and CHED must ensure the quality of specifically the Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation and the Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering programs being supplied by maritime schools. Graduates of the two marine education programs, once licensed and certified, become ship officers – masters, chief mates, officers-in-charge of a navigational watch, chief engineers, second engineers and officers-in-charge of engineering watch.
Looking at the bigger picture, we hope Congress would succeed to pass the proposed Magna Carta of Filipino Seafarers to provide better protection of the rights and welfare of Filipino sea-based workers. It would guarantee their right to humane working conditions and just compensation.