One of the problems hounding our country’s Maritime industry is that most of our domestic vessels (interisland) are not seaworthy and there are still many wooden outriggers that are still operating in the seas of the Philippines because our local shipbuilders have long been neglected, since the inter-island operation is monopolized by some giant domestic shipping firms.

According to United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) president, Engr. Nelson Ramirez, in 1988, the Philippines has produced more than 800 Philippine Registered Vessels (PRVs) and if these PRVs were given proper attention years ago, it will become one of the top dollar earners in our country right now with very minimal capitalization involved.

He also said that the Philippines, as an archipelagic country and a seafaring nation could have been the center for shipbuilding, dry-docking, shipbreaking, transshipment of cargoes and expansion of Philippine Registered Vessels, and the reason why we did not attain these is because the people who were placed in the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) are incompetent and corrupt.

But decades after, the Philippine shipping industry has somehow more great potential to contribute to the country’s economy, but still has many areas for enhancement.

Inter-island shipping is thriving in the Philippines. Because of this, passengers and their cargo need to be transported efficiently and safely. In order to have regular and stable access to the country’s different islands, a fast, sufficient and reliable maritime transport system is needed.

Latest records from Marina’s domestic fleet inventory say there are 9,056 registered passenger vessels as of December 2016. They have a combined gross register tonnage (GRT) of 498,961— average GRT is 55—and an average age of 8.91 years. This figure made up 63 percent of the total 14,336 merchant fleets, a 65-percent increase from the more than 9,500 recorded in 2013.

In the first quarter of 2014, Marina reported more than 12 million domestic-shipping passengers, which is 26 percent more than the 9 million air travelers in domestic carriers. The figures suggest that more people prefer traveling by sea than by air

Some passengers of inter-island ships observed that during peak season, there are not enough seats to accommodate them and a large number of co-passengers who have to stand for the duration of the trip, even when there are fewer trucks on board. Also, when passengers are fewer, more cargo trucks are loaded onboard.

Besides the overcrowding, passengers are asking for cleaner and well-maintained restrooms and for ships to be upgraded and modernized. They should also be fitted with more comfortable seats, instead of monobloc chairs.

Most of Filipino travelers are choosing inter-island ships during holidays compared to air travels because according to them, sea travel is cheaper than air travel and is quite enjoyable, especially during fine weather.

What causes sea mishaps?

Several factors compromise the safety of sea travel. Extreme weather conditions are one of them, and are often the major cause of accidents at sea. To avoid these, port authorities suspend issuing travel clearances during bad weather, based on official advisories from relevant agencies and institutions.

Human error also causes accidents. This is blamed on incompetent or negligent crew members and other human factors. The massive recruitment of trained seafarers for overseas trade has resulted in the lack of qualified and skilled seafarers in our local shipping industry.

Technical malfunction is caused by the condition of the ships and their engines. According to Marina records, most of the vessels used in roll-on/ roll-off terminal systems are secondhand cargo ships converted into passenger/cargo ships. The government allows the importation of used ships to augment the fleet, as orders for new ships in the domestic shipping industry are scarce.

The increasing demand for domestic shipping is looked upon as the maritime sector’s contribution to increased economic growth. This supports the needs of various subsectors and industries that bank on the timely shipment of their goods from one market to another. However, this economic opportunity has to be balanced with the strict enforcement of applicable maritime laws and rules.

Standards and best practices

As a regulatory body, Marina is striving to perform its functions efficiently. Recognizing that modernization must be part of the reforms to improve domestic shipping lines, the authority is working and looking on solutions, including providing subsidies to shipping companies, so that they are encouraged to increase their fleet with new, locally built or assembled vessels.

Marina also prioritizes conducting relevant studies on maritime accidents for proper documentation and the appropriate use of relevant information to be collated and gathered. It is expected that these would help in crafting necessary policies, as well as corrective and preventive measures, to eliminate unfortunate incidents at sea.

According to Michael Armamento of SeaSafe Inspection and Marine Services, Inc., he believes that the existence of six different local classification societies compromises safety, as they try to outdo, instead of complement, each other. Thus, they have the purposes and intent to assist Marina in ensuring that there are dedicated organizations pushing for the development and administration of technical standards of ships.

These include the design, construction and periodic survey of ships and other marine structures, such as mobile offshore units. They also render advisory services related to the aforementioned and the revision of rules referred to by the authority. However, these are unfortunately set aside by their competitive stance.

The Philippines can benchmark with other countries, among them South Korea and China, which maintain a single class that works on ensuring the safety and seaworthiness of all vessels. Thus, it is maintained that maritime safety from page 27 The Grim scenario of the Philippines’ domestic shipping industry is the foremost priority and that no vested interests from regulating parties can be observed. It is hoped that in the next few years, a sole and unified classification will be achieved with the help of bills sponsored by Angkla Party-list, local government units and other relevant organizations. (Based in an article from The Manila Times.. http:// www.manilatimes.net/learning-lessons-foreign-ferry-companies/371244/)

 

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