A View from Manila

10 February 2021

With a significant number of the world’s seafarers coming from the Philippines, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Registry’s Manila office stepped in to support owners, operators, and seafarers with crew change challenges, seafarer documentation, and protecting safe vessel operation during the pandemic. The human element of shipping, often forgotten, became a focal point of pandemic operations as the world recognized the critical and essential role seafarers play in keeping the global supply chain moving.

Crew change is not typically something that requires the involvement of the flag State, however, the COVID-19 situation created unprecedented issues with respect to crew change and crew welfare, and the RMI Maritime Administrator got involved to support, guide, and assist owners and operators in any way possible. In addition to collaborating with RMI Registry offices worldwide, the Manila team addressed a constant demand from the ship operators for the approval of crew change plans whose crew had extended beyond their contract duration due to the difficulties in repatriation brought about by the crisis.

Although government lockdowns and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevent the team from gathering in the office, the Registry’s Manila office has issued all the necessary International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) documents to Filipino seafarers joining RMI vessels.

“Together with other seafarers’ documentation departments in our regional offices, we worked as one big production line round the clock, tapping our local resources to compliment those of others,” said Leo Bolivar, Country Head – The Philippines. “All of our regional production offices, including Manila, have proactively adapted to the changing norms, not only in terms of internal production processes but also in recalibrating our logistical strategies, to ensure that the much-needed seafarers’ documents can be connected to the crew and the vessel in a timely fashion. Our close coordination with local staffing agencies makes life a great deal easier for everyone involved in these challenging times.”

While the crew change crisis remains the most pressing issue for the industry, the Manila office has also remained focused on supporting the Fleet Operations team in remote and physical inspections.

“Over the past six months, our teams in Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Korea, and Japan, and our extensive network of in-house inspectors and contractors across the region have been working even more closely with port State control (PSC) authorities. We have increased the number of inspectors including the recent additions of RMI inspectors in Australia and the Philippines,” Leo commented. “Working collaboratively and cooperatively with PSC authorities, operators, seafarers, and owners is the only way to address the COVID-19 challenges.”