"Germany and the EU cannot possibly have world-class efficient commercial ships manned by Filipinos today, and world-class efficient ships without Filipinos onboard tomorrow", said Vice President of the Philippines Jejomar Binay at a Maritime Round Table held at the Head Offices of Classification Society Germanischer Lloyd (GL) recently.
One of the most critical factors to ensuring safety at sea is the human element, without an able and experienced crew and officers the most modern and well designed vessel cannot promise safety. Filipino seafarers are at the heart of the maritime industry, making up almost one third of working seamen on trading vessels.
Vice President Binay arrived in Hamburg for the Maritime Round Table event, focused on the Filipino Seafarer, after a visit to Berlin, where he met with Dr. Guido Westerwelle, German's Foreign Minister. Mr. Albrecht Grell, Senior Executive Vice President of Germanischer Lloyd's Maritime Solutions Unit, opened the event and spoke of Germanischer Lloyd's tradition of promoting safety on the seas, the vital importance of a well trained and competent crew and the longstanding relations between Germany and the Philippines.
Vice President Binay called on the more than 60 representatives of the maritime community, including leading shipping management and shipbuilding companies, to provide assistance and support in the upcoming audit of the country's compliance with the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW Convention) by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). Compliance is essential if Filipino seafarers are to continue to sail on EU flagged vessels.
There are some 40,000 Filipino seafarers on German owned vessels. The Vice President noted, "Our most pressing duty right now is to keep the Filipino seafarers, with your able and gracious assistance, on board the EU-flagged ships sailing the seven seas." He continued, "We take our STCW compliance very seriously and are determined to make sure this issue is addressed fully by the time the next EMSA audit is conducted in October".
The Vice President looked at some of the notable examples of German-Philippine cooperation, including the famous Las Piñas Bamboo Organ, which was shipped to Bonn for restoration in the 1970's, bringing the national treasure back to life. "The organ of Las Piñas is something we owe to the Germans," he said, adding, "The same favor we would like to owe now in the name of the Filipino seafarers". He also looked to the potential of his nation to supply not only seafarers but ships, stating, "With our President eager to push industrialization, we could begin to build our own ocean-going ships soon."
Nobody knew better than those assembled in the room the worth and importance of the Filipino seafarer to the German maritime industry, said Vice President Binay, and his call for assistance in this regard was warmly received. Dr. Holger Manzke, District Manager of GL Manila, noted that GL as a Recognized Organization stood ready to give its full support in the assessment of the maritime colleges, and combined with the additional support of the Alliance of maritime stakeholders established under the Maritime Committee of the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The Alliance was formed to better coordinate the involvement of the maritime community, especially German stakeholders, in the seafaring education and training programs of the Philippines. This had been taking place for many years in an ad hoc manner, said Dr. Manzke, but with support from the respective governments and the Alliance members education and training could be improved to deliver the competent, committed and values-driven seafarers required by the industry, cementing the central role of the Filipino seafarer in shipping. "The engagement of the industry in education will help to avoid gaps between technology and education," he said.
The Philippines has a vast number of colleges offering training and huge numbers of young people entering these programs, Dr. Manzke said, but they were not succeeding as well as could be hoped in helping their graduates to find work. The Alliance has developed a new system with quality assurance and screening in place early and throughout the training period, which if introduced would help to reduce costs and increase opportunities for young graduates. Making sure that there were also career opportunities after their time on board was also a key part of the Alliance's goals, he said, and by emphasizing Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering the Philippines would broaden the paths available, while building the country's pool of skilled professionals.
Cliff Davies, the President of Döhle Shipmanagement Philippines Corp., emphasized the character of the Filipino seafarer as a worker who was "highly adaptable, reliable & trustworthy, resilient, persistent, consistent, ambitious and loyal". But the country offered much more, he said, with a deep and motivated pool of young people. Dr. Bianca Untied, Advisor for development cooperation (on behalf of BMZ) and Hans Hermann Dube, Regional Director Asia GIZ-IS, examined some of the ways in which German governmental organizations were helping to develop educational and training infrastructure around the world, through a number of public and privately funded initiatives.
The maritime conference was organized by Germanischer Lloyd, German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GPCCI), and the German Asia Pacific Business Association (OAV), in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy in Berlin and the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Manila.