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Advisory Committee to Address Issues Impacting Filipino Seafarers

January 16, 2023

Global leaders from organizations representing seafarers, shipowners and other maritime employers signed a memorandum of understanding with the Philippines’s Department of Migrant Workers on Wednesday 11 January, to form the International Advisory Committee on Global Maritime Affairs (IACGMA).

The IACGMA is composed of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations (ECSA), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Maritime Employers’ Council (IMEC), and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

“The Philippine government through its Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) welcomes the participation of well-respected industry associations and leaders from the global shipping industry in developing our roadmap to a just transition as well as boosting the global competitiveness of Filipino seafarers across the globe,” Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said during the signing ceremony of DMW with its international partners.

The Secretary assured the IACGMA’s international partners that other relevant government agencies in the Philippines such as the Department of Transportation and its attached agency, Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) have expressed support to the goals and vision of the newly-formed advisory body.

The formation of the IACGMA follows a meeting that took place on 13 December 2022 where shipping industry leaders met with His Excellency President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr, as part of his foreign policy tour in Brussels. During the meeting, President Marcos recommended the establishment of a new advisory board to be made up of employers, shipowners and unions and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to give expert advice on major maritime issues affecting Filipino seafarers.

The creation of the IACGMA solidifies the shipping industry and Philippines government’s commitment to ensuring the welfare of its seafarers and finding solutions to the challenges ahead.

Key aims of the IACGMA include contributing to the provision of appropriate training to the country’s seafarers in compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention. The IACGMA will also work to address concerns regarding ambulance chasing and unfair labor practices, and on issues related to the employability of Filipino seafarers overseas; all key areas of discussion during the group’s December meeting.

Sotiris Raptis, Secretary General of the European Community Shipowners’ Associations said, “ECSA welcomes the establishment of the IACGMA and is honoured to bring its expertise to this initiative. Filipino seafarers play a crucial role in EU shipping and in keeping European trade moving. By engaging in the International Advisory Committee together with our industry partners, ECSA strives to be a strategic partner to the Philippines and facilitate a productive dialogue with the EU institutions on matters of key importance such as seafarers’ qualifications, training, and certification”.

International Chamber of Shipping Secretary General Guy Platten said, “It is excellent that the IACGMA has been formed so swiftly following the industry’s meeting with President Marcos in December 2022. It signifies the strength of commitment from industry and the Philippines to ensuring safety and protection for Filipino seafarers, who make up a huge 14% of the global seafarer workforce.”

“The ICS look forward to collaborating with ECSA, IMEC, ITF and the Philippines Government to tackle the challenges ahead for our workforce, and to ensure a bright future for our seafarers.”

International Maritime Employers’ Council Chairman, Capt. Belal Ahmed said, “The formation of IACGMA is a massive milestone in the public-private discourse and we are confident this will lead to a new golden era for the Philippines in the maritime industry. We are delighted that President Marcos seized the industry’s offer to assist with the current challenges and has committed his government’s resources to addressing our concerns.”

“IMEC is particularly proud of this partnership which builds upon its decades of commitment to educating and employing Filipino seafarers and more recently its contribution to the country’s maritime education offering through the Train the Trainer programme.”

International Transport Workers’ Federation General Secretary Stephen Cotton said, “The ITF has a long history working with our affiliated unions in the Philippines to promote the importance and professionalism of Filipino seafarers in global shipping. Extending on collaboration during the pandemic, and our ongoing partnership in all aspects of the maritime environment, the new advisory committee will be essential to ensure that Filipino seafarers maintain the highest standards working on ships across the globe in the future.”

“We welcome the steps taken by the Marcos Government to put Filipino seafarers in the box seat to be at the forefront of addressing our industry's challenges and promoting a sustainable future for maritime professionals. We call on other governments to follow the Philippines proactive leadership that is putting the future of seafarers at the heart of discussions and decisions on the future of shipping.

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