PH, China vying to fill global shortage of sailors

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MANILA – The Philippines and China – two of the world’s top suppliers of merchant ship officers – are vying to fill the growing shortage of sailors on international ocean-going vessels, the ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations said on Friday.

“Right now, there is a global shortage of around 16,500 ship officers, but the gap is bound to widen in the years ahead, because many sailors are aging fast, plus some are actually dropping out of the profession,” said ACTS-OFW chairman Aniceto Bertiz III.

Citing a report from the London-based International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Bertiz said the current global demand for ship officers alone is at 790,500, while the supply is only at 774,000, thus the shortage.

“We have the advantage over China in plugging the gap because all Filipino ship officers underwent college schooling in English, and are very fluent in English, which is the common working language of shipping globally,” Bertiz said.

China has a huge supply of ship officers because the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy also has a multitude of merchant vessels that conduct trade internationally, according to Bertiz.

ICS report said: “The forecast growth in the world merchant fleet over the next 10 years, and its anticipated demand for sailors, will likely continue the trend of an overall shortage in the supply of officers. This is despite improved recruitment and training levels and reductions in officer wastage rates over the past five years.”



President Rodrigo Duterte earlier bared plans to put up a new bureau that would improve the certification of Filipino ship officers.

The bureau could be put under the new department for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) that his administration hopes to activate by December.

Bertiz himself batted for the new OFW department – to be called the Department of Migration and Development – when he was a member of Congress.

At present, the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) handles the licensing of ship officers who are graduates either of Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation or Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering.



There are two categories of sailors – officers and ratings, according to Bertiz.

Officers are the licensed mariners responsible for the ship’s safe navigation and passage.

Ratings are ordinary or unlicensed mariners who support the officers in all other tasks that can arise during a voyage.



The ICS report said China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are the world’s top five suppliers of sailors (officers and ratings combined).

China is the biggest supplier of officers, followed by the Philippines, India, Indonesia and the Russian Federation.

The Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings, followed by China, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.



While there is a lack of ship officers, Bertiz said there is a surplus of ratings.

“The current global demand for ratings is 754,000, while the supply is 873,000, so there is a surplus of 119,000,” Bertiz said.



Filipino sailors sent home via bank channels a total of $2.684 billion from January to May this year, up 9.2 percent or $227 million from $2.457 billion in the same period in 2018, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

They wired home through the banking system a total of $6.139 billion in the 12 months of 2018.