THE WAY I SEE IT | Susan Amoroso
Each Christmas season, the much-awaited balikbayan box is a common sight delivered to the doorsteps from loved ones abroad. It was not flown. Millions of products and people cross the oceans onboard container and passenger ships. Almost 90 percent of the world’s goods are delivered across thousands of miles by ships. Oil is one global product that can only be shipped by oil tankers that sail across the big waters of the earth’s oceans.
I have always been fascinated by the sea and sailors.
Popeye the sailor man’’ was my favorite cartoon character second only toBetty Boop’’ with her big brown eyes and sexy coca-cola body. Today, I am more fascinated than ever with maritime and its role in man’s progress. Interestingly most ships, be it container, tanker or passenger cruise lines have Filipinos onboard. A Philippine crew is considered staples of any respected shipping company in the world for years up to the present. Philippine seafarers are onboard on these ships at any given day. They include mess boys, waiters, cooks, managers, chief engineers, chief mates, nurses, entertainers, captains, almost all kinds of professions involved in running and maintaining a ship.
In 2019, the Philippines deployed 500,000 seafarers at an average of 41,666 monthly. This year because of the pandemic deployment was down. From March to June 2020, deployment was 4,904 per month. From July to September 2020, monthly deployment was up at 45,541. The local economy depends so much on foreign remittances with sea based OFWs as the largest contributor. In 2019, our Pinoy seamen remitted US$6 billion, without which the local economy will definitely suffer.
We produce world class seafarers. The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands. We have the longest shoreline put together relative to the size of our land mass. Filipinos are reputed first class sailors and shipbuilders, even before the Spanish-Mexican galleon trade based on historical data and artifacts.
To maintain and surpass the half a million-yearly deployment of Filipino seafarers is the topmost goal of the industry. Secondly, to build a successful globally competitive shipbuilding industry. The two are included in the nine-point programs under the Ten-Year Maritime Industry Development Plan or MIDP. The others are icings on the cake but equally important.
Vice Admiral (VAdm) Robert Empedrad, administrator of the Maritime Development Authority urges the government to fund the MIDP implementation. The MIDP seeks to make the Philippines the maritime hub of choice globally in terms of personnel and infrastructure, research and training, maritime security, coastal and inland waterways transport system, domestic shipping and services in support of the nautical highway and maritime tourism. The MIDP’s priority is the enhancement of maritime standards, security and safety at all times for ships, cargo and people in domestic and international travel in all ports and piers nationwide. In short zero accidents and zero security mishaps.
The MIDP was conceptualized in 2016 and honed to perfection in 2018 with the nation’s best interests in mind. The industry stakeholders all agree that the study took the advice and global experience of the best minds and captains of the seafaring industry.
Empedrad disclosed some exciting news in his year-end brief. The government is now underway to build the country’s first naval ship with missile capability. The defunct Hanjin shipbuilding plant in Subic is now under a new operator, an American company. Empedrad is hopeful for the re-employment of the 20,000 displaced workers of Hanjin.
With regard to maritime diplomatic relations, MARINA is seeking the installation of at least two maritime attaches , one in London, and one in Norway, at least for the time being. Empedrad believes maritime attaches for the Philippines are needed to protect the interests of our seafarers and to negotiate on behalf of the government important concerns with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).