It seldom makes statements publicly on issues confronting Filipino seafarers, but this time, the Associated Marine Officers’ and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) could not help but voice out its concerns over continuing challenges on crew change.
Dr. Conrado Oca, president of the world’s biggest seafarers’ union, has lauded the government for coming out with the Joint Circular No. 1 s. 2020 that establishes so-called “green lanes.”
“We’re extremely pleased the government was able to come out with unified protocols for addressing the process for disembarking and deploying of Filipino seafarers and for transiting foreign seafarers through a system of green lanes,” Dr. Oca said.
During the recent virtual High Level Meeting organized by ILO, he even went as far as commending the government for its decision to offer the country’s international ports to help facilitate crew change for foreign-flagged ships.
“Opening up Philippine ports for crew change is strategically beneficial for the seafaring sector and a logical step for the calibrated reopening of the economy,” Dr. Oca commented.
Notwithstanding these, he strongly urged various government agencies involved in the deployment and repatriation of seafarers to fully implement the Joint Circular.
Weeks after 15 government agencies signed the unified protocols, Dr. Oca noted: “We have yet to see the full implementation of these new protocols which is largely dependent on the absorptive capacity of existing health and quarantine facilities.”
He observed: “Apparently, there is an existing gap between present infrastructures in our airports and seaports in handling thousands of seafarers that need crew change.”
He said that as of July 16, 2020, there were 31 cargo ships and 8 cruise ships in the Manila Bay anchorage area all seeking to repatriate and replace their Filipino crew.
“Our seafarers have suffered for many months; they should be given the chance to go home or go onboard before the situation jeopardized the health of seafarers and safety of ships,” he insisted.
The AMOSUP official also called on UN agencies present at the virtual meeting “to convince governments to lift travel restrictions on seafarers, open up airports and seaports so crew changes can be done.
“We join other ITF affiliates in calling all governments to facilitate crew change for all seafarers,” declared Dr. Oca. – Angelo C. Enriquez