Thursday, February 9, 2012

Talks on Biometrics to Freight Ferries as IMO Boss visits the Philippines

Safety and Security are the Watchwords for Seafarers Future
Shipping News Feature

PHILIPPINES – Just two weeks after we told how United Nations Convention No. 185 has finally been ratified by the Republic of the Philippines, meaning Filipino seafarers will carry biometric identification in future with all the ramifications that brings for fair employment, safety and security to the shipping community, the head of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), itself a UN agency, has undertaken a two day visit to Manila to discuss matters ranging from piracy to the safety of freight and passenger ferries which ply their trade within the group of islands of which the country is comprised.

In wide-ranging talks in Manila with Philippines’ President Benigno S. Aquino III, as well as the country’s Secretaries for Foreign Affairs, Transport and Communication, and Labour and Employment, IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu emphasized his organization’s support for the Philippines in all facets of the country’s maritime development. After expressing admiration and appreciation for the efforts made by the Government of the Philippines to provide a continuous supply of competent seafarers to the global shipping community Mr Sekimizu affirmed the IMO’s commitment to provide the Philippines with assistance in all aspects of its maritime development, including the fields of education, training, and certification of seafarers under the STCW Convention.

Despite the undoubted qualities of competent crew provision the region’s credibility still suffers as a result of unscrupulous crewing agencies but even more from an horrific history of maritime disasters caused by inept and inexcusable safety practices as much as by inclement conditions. Noting the significant role of national shipping within the Philippine archipelago the IMO chief encouraged the industry to take appropriate action to ensure the safety of domestic navigation. Efforts are claimed to have been made by the local Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to improve this situation but no doubt IMO support would be welcome in dragging the customs and practices of local vested interests into the 21st Century.

As is usual in these matters, outside observers consider the glacial pace of change with regard to safety matters as inexcusable and it is to be hoped that the IMO will act swiftly and firmly to assist in the institution of changes which are both properly constructed and implemented. One of the Secretary-General’s primary purposes for the visit was to aid the establishment of a national maritime transport strategy, which would provide a springboard for the development of maritime clusters in the country, comprising seafaring, ship building and repair, and ship management.

With this in mind Mr Sekimizu and the Secretary of Transport and Communication, Mr Mar Roxas, agreed to establish an informal channel of communication between IMO and the Philippine Government, specifically to address any matters arising from the implementation of the international Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention(STCW) with a view to improving the mechanism for addressing certification issues.

As regards security, the IMO leader extended an invitation to the Philippines to send a delegation to the forthcoming Capacity-building Conference on Counter-Piracy, to be held at IMO on 15 May, followed by a High Level Segment on the opening day (16 May 2012) of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), to discuss the issue of arms on board ships moving on from the same subject that was discussed at length in December.

The Somali situation was also the subject of a lengthy statement by British Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday (HERE) who talked of the forthcoming conference on the country to be held in London on the 23rd February.

Photo: IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu