IMO CHIEF: BIGGER MARITIME POWER CAN LEAD TO STRONGER ECONOMY

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International Maritime Organization secretary-general Kitack Lim, Department of Transportation and Communication secretary Jun Abaya (both middle) and officials of Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and SM Malls join around 5,000 seafarers and their families in a photo op at the Day of the Filipino Seafarer in Pasay City, June 25. (PHOTO BY GHIO ONG)

While recognizing the role of Filipino seafarers in driving the national economy, the chief of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) challenged them and the authorities governing them to keep up with the challenges surrounding the industry.

“Once you have a bigger maritime and sea power, you will have a much stronger economy,” IMO secretary-general Ki Tack Lim told around 5,000 seafarers and their families during the celebration of the International Day of Seafarers in Pasay City yesterday.

His visit to the Philippines was a first for any IMO chief since the establishment of the United Nations-attached body in 1948.

He praised the contribution of the Philippine government and Philippine-based shipping industries in “collective investment in maritime education and training over the recent years.” “The number of highly-advanced, specialized facilities in the Philippines today show how strongly committed you are to remain the crewing capital of the world.”

However, Lim stressed that “demand of global fleet for manpower is increasing and predicted to rise further, hence attracting and retaining new seafarers, particularly officers, is a challenge.”

While the investment made in training infrastructure would help, he noted “shipping companies also need to ensure that they have properly structured training and community development programs in place, too.”

He also stressed that “seafarer welfare must not be overlooked,” especially for young people who aspire to be one. “To be attractive, the shipping industry needs to ensure they can feel confident in joining a profession in which they and their families would be looked after.”

Lim also stresses the important role of women in the seafaring industry. “Shipping cannot afford to ignore such a rich, largely untapped source of quality recruit.”

He said his cause as IMO chief focused on the human element, tackling issues and formulating policies which concern seafarers’ welfare.

He praised Filipinos for driving the national economy, citing statistics that the Philippine seafaring industry contributed around $5.8-billion to the economy.

Meanwhile, Atty. Gloria Bañas, deputy administrator for operations of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), said the establishment of the agency as a single maritime administration could help meet the said challenges.

President Aquino signed Republic Act 10635 establishing Marina as the sole body governing the maritime industry.

“This law will make sure that tighter oversight in the maritime industry will take place, that we will be more serious we have quality seafarers and making reforms indicated by the (International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers),” she said.

The said convention drafted the so-called Manila Amendments in 2010, which also included the celebration of the International Seafarer’s Day on June 25.

Bañas added Marina is also currently in talks with private firms across the country to provide spaces for seafarers to get easier access in meeting their requirements, including the seafarer’s book.

She also prided the entry of more ships in the country’s ports, and the establishment of a group of private shipbuilders based here in the country.

“We support the pronouncement of (President-elect Duterte) that focus on improvement in services, more investor-friendly and faster services,” she added.

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