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Some four months ago I wrote on this page that the "Philippines shows
I have now become all the more convinced that is the case. I recently had the
pleasure of speaking at the 36th Annual Convention and General Assembly of the
Philippine Association of Maritime Institutions (PAMI). Those institutions are, of
course, maritime schools, universities and colleges.
While I spoke as "Roving Ambassador" for the International Marine Environment
Protection Association (INTERMEPA), I was just one of ten speakers who addressed the
Convention on a range of appropriate subjects.
The Convention was held under the shadow of the awesome, smoking Mayon
volcano in Legazpi City in the south of Luzon Island. An appropriate venue given that
Legazpi is home to some of the leading maritime colleges in the Philippines.
While I was waiting to speak on the subject of "Marine Environment Protection: A
Must for Maritime Schools", I listened to and learnt a lot from my fellow speakers.
The maritime schools of the Philippines now represent a significant slice of that
nation's economy. Around 150 schools produce some 40,000 seafarer graduates
annually. Those graduates, together with their predecessors, represent some thirty
percent of the world's employed seafarers.
Their skills range from those of stewards, baristas and greasers through naval
architects and engineers to foreign going masters. They are employed by and in demand
from ship owners all over the world.
PAMI has 94 member schools. They have rigid and ever tightening accreditation
standards. The Associations objective is to be the "agent of reform and development of
the country's maritime discipline". It has developed close relationships with appropriate
Philippine government departments and with manning agencies, ship owners and ship
The individual schools seem to be run along the lines of military acadamies. Neat,
clean uniforms, saluting and drill are the order of the day. While academic subjects are
important, so too is seagoing discipline.
I spoke with a number of heads of schools. It was obvious that they are very well
aware of the importance of their schools to their nation's economy. They are equally
aware of the imperative of turning out well-qualified useful graduates.
In a comparatively poor country like the Philippines, it takes a while to realise how
economically important these people based industries can be. An enormous proportion
of the Philippines' foreign exchange earnings are achieved by its seafarers, its overseas
resident maids and its call centre workers. They are vitally important industries.
The "flow-on" of their earnings through the wider Philippine economy is both wider
and deeper than most people would imagine. For example, they drive much of the
construction of new houses and investment properties, particularly larger ones. They
help support many of the country's private schools and they generally grease the wheels
of the nation's commerce.
Many industry people outside the Philippines find it difficult to comprehend the
size, strength and importance of its maritime education sector. They look at the
country's own existing fleet of Philippine flagged vessels and are not impressed. What
must be understood is that while Filipinos own very few foreign going ships, they are
the world's biggest -- by far -- exporter of trained seafarers.
Obviously, now that the Philippines provides the largest single group of the world's
seafarers, it will increasingly want a say in the pay and conditions of its people. The world's
smarter ship owners and ship managers are well aware of that and are prepared for it.
Filipino seafarers are rather reminiscent of their Greek counterparts prior to World
War Two. It is not difficult to imagine them heading into large scale ship owning as the
Greeks did after that war., Some individuals are starting to make and save money.
Collectively, those individuals will eventually represent significant financial power.
We are already seeing solid shipbuilding developments in the Philippines, as I
mentioned on this page in September.
There is no doubt whatsoever that the Philippines is now a very important
component of the global maritime industry. It will increasingly be so and quite rapidly.
As I suggested at the PAMI Convention Dinner, it is high time, given its significant
industry role, that the uniquely Philippines part of the industry be given a bigger role in
the global corridors of power. Organisations like the ISF, BIMCO and the IMO should be
according the Philippines industry considerably more importance.
The Philippines: Providing the
EDITORIAL JANUARY 2011
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