India, Philippines Compete for Global Share of Seafarers

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Published Jun 12, 2017 9:18 PM by Noel Tarrazona

Over the last month, at least three major national organizations in India have drafted plans to address the declining global market for Indian seafarers.

India has 1.3 billion people but only provides seven percent of the 1,647,500 seafarers engaged in international shipping, while the Philippines with a smaller population of 100 million supplies 20 percent.

A new task force has been organized to convene with India’s Director General of Shipping Malini Shankar. Members have been drawn from the National Union of Seafarers of India (NUSI), the Maritime Union of India (MUI) and the Maritime Association of Shipowners and Agents (MASA).

The task force has recommended a restructuring of the maritime examination system in India as well as continuous improvement of maritime training facilities.

Shankar has been quoted as saying that, “India should be ready to meet the anticipated demand for qualified seafarers when the shipping industry witnesses an upturn globally.”

India has already made initial moves this year to attract more people to the international maritime industry by granting tax exemptions, particularly if seafarers are boarding foreign ships for more than 182 days a year.

NUSI Secretry-General Abdulgani Serang says the exemptions granted by the Ministry of Finance support the nation's Maritime Agenda 2020 which aims to increase the global share of Indian seafarers from seven to nine percent.

The Philippines, on the other hand, aims to retain its world leadership. To sustain its trademark as the world's leading supplier of seafarers, The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is now pushing for the 10-year MARINA  Development program that will focus on developing the computer skills of future Filipino seafarers, a move deemed necessary as ship management technology evolves.

MARINA Administrator Marcial Quirico Amaro has said that the 10-year plan will continue to produce highly qualified seafarers and a robust shipping industry to ensure the Philippines remains a major maritime country.

Aware of India’s direction to compete with the Philippines, Amaro warned that “many countries are positioning to make their seafarers more competitive than ours, and they are ready to take our place if we fail to cope with the changing times. They are just waiting for us to lose our competitiveness.”

The MARINA 10-year plan includes seafarers’ training and development and new regulations for shipyards, local and overseas shipping and fishing industries.

Filipino seafarers play an important role in the nation's economy, as they remit around $5.5 billion annually to their home country. To reduce unemployment in the country, the government is also encouraging Filipino students to consider seafarer training, because there will be a shortage of 92,000 merchant marine officers by 2020 and 147,000 by 2025.

Another ambitious step the Philippines will be considering is for MARINA to take over the National Maritime Polytechnic Training Centre in Central Philippines from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). This would mean that the training center no longer competes with private maritime schools.

Of the 1,647,500 seafarers working on international merchant ships, the Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings, followed by China, Indonesia, Russia and the Ukraine, but China leads in the number of supervisory positions followed by the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Russia.

India and the Philippines have been economic rivals in the supply of manpower for a diverse range of industries. Both countries are known for their manpower skills in the hospitality and Information Technology sectors globally, and both see their human resources as the life blood of their economy.