The Philippines is a dominant source of seafarers and cadets, contributing significantly to the global merchant fleet. Filipino seafarers are known for their English proficiency, quality education and training, cultural affinity for seafaring, and cost-competitiveness, argues Konstantinos Galanakis, Chief Executive Officer at ELVICTOR GROUP Inc.
ilipino seafarers offer reliability, competence, versatility, adaptability, and cultural sensitivity, making them highly sought-after personnel for international shipping companies. Despite challenges such as limited job opportunities for new cadets and an ageing demographic, the high demand for Filipino seafarers has positively impacted contract duration and wages.
The industry’s future forecast shows growth opportunities, but consistent effort is required to address challenges and maintain competitiveness in the global market. Filipino seafarers have proven to be valuable assets, bridging gaps caused by geopolitical tensions and meeting the demand for skilled crew members worldwide.
1. “Sailing to Success: The Dominance of Filipino Seafarers in the Global Maritime Industry”
2. “Breaking Barriers: The Historical Background of Filipino Seafaring Tradition”
3. “Navigating the Challenges: The Ageing Demographics and Shortage of Skilled Seafarers”
4. “Beyond the Numbers: The Pros and Cons of Hiring Filipino Seafarers”
5. “Innovative Solutions: Addressing the Challenges and Seizing the Opportunities in Filipino Seafarer Supply”
- Dominance: The Philippines is globally recognized as a leading seafarer and cadet source, significantly contributing to the global merchant fleet. This blog explores the reasons behind the Filipino market’s dominance in supplying seafarers and cadets and their invaluable contributions to the global maritime industry.
- Supply: The seafarers’ supply in the Philippines significantly contributes to the global maritime industry. The Philippines has long been recognized as one of the largest sources of skilled seafarers, providing manpower to various international shipping companies.
- Cadets Produced: One aspect to consider is the number of new cadets produced per year compared to those who actually find jobs and embark on vessels. The Philippines produces a substantial number of new cadets annually through maritime universities and training centres.
- Lack of Cadetship Factors: Not all cadets can secure employment immediately upon graduation. Many factors contribute to this, including the limited number of available positions and the industry’s highly competitive nature. Many cases and researches especially show that there is also resistance from ship operators to promote seafarers, and proportionally few ship managers exercise and develop cadetship programs, which is a tendency created due to budgetary constraints, which has to change for populating and starting a new generation of future junior and senior officers. Also, there is a fear of default, meaning that many ship operators are afraid to develop and take the risk of developing junior officers through promoting and using cadets.
As a result, some cadets may have to wait or explore alternative career paths in related maritime sectors.
The Philippines’ long-standing maritime tradition is rooted in its archipelagic geography and history as a significant trading nation; the Spanish colonial period marked the beginning of the country’s seafaring legacy, as Filipinos played essential roles in voyages and trade between colonies. Over time, this tradition has evolved, resulting in the Philippines becoming a prominent source of seafaring personnel.
Statistics and Age Demographics
The latest statistics on seafarer recruitment in the Philippines are not readily available, but the country continues to produce a significant number of qualified seafarers each year. Various government and private initiatives are in place to ensure the continuous supply of skilled seafarers, including training programs, scholarships, and collaborations with international maritime companies. Once again, the statistics could be more attainable and updated, creating a gap in the actual production and utilization of the human resources supply, competence and deep evaluation for future forecasts and documented figures-based strategies.
According to available statistics, Filipino seafarers have a significant presence in the global maritime industry. Here are some key statistics concerning Filipino seafarers:
1. Dominance in the Global Workforce: Filipino seafarers constitute a substantial portion of the global maritime workforce. As of 2020, approximately 400,000 Filipino seafarers were employed worldwide, making up around 25% of the global seafaring population.
2. Contribution to Merchant Fleet: Filipino seafarers contribute significantly to the global merchant fleet. It is estimated that Filipino seafarers man around 30% of the world’s merchant fleet, which includes various types of vessels such as container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers, and cruise ships.
3. Top Ranking in Crew Supply: The Philippines consistently ranks as the top country in supplying seafarers worldwide. This dominance is evident in various reports and rankings, with the Philippines being the primary source of seafaring personnel for major shipping nations like Greece, Japan, Germany, and the United States.
4. Remittance Contributions: The economic impact of Filipino seafarers on the national economy is substantial. In 2020, remittances from seafarers and maritime workers reached approximately $6.14 billion, making seafaring one of the top contributors to the country’s GDP. These remittances benefit not only the families and communities of seafarers but also the overall economic development of the Philippines.
5. Education and Training Institutions: The Philippines is home to numerous maritime education and training institutions certified by international standards. These institutions provide high-quality education and training programs, producing skilled and competent seafarers who are sought after by shipping companies worldwide.
6. Offshore Cadetship Programs: Many international shipping companies offer offshore cadetship programs for Filipino seafaring students. These programs allow aspiring Filipino cadets to gain practical experience onboard vessels, enabling them to transition seamlessly into their future seafaring careers.
7. Improved Gender Diversity: Over the years, there has been a notable increase in female Filipino seafarers. While the majority of seafarers are still male, the number of women entering the field is steadily rising. This trend reflects efforts to promote gender equality, diversity, and inclusivity within the maritime industry.
It is important to note that the statistics provided are based on available data, and the numbers may vary over time due to changes in the global maritime industry and other factors. Nonetheless, these statistics highlight Filipino seafarers’ significant presence and contributions within the global maritime workforce.
Regarding the ageing statistics of Filipino seafarers, there has been a gradual increase in the average age of seafarers in recent years. This can be attributed to the increasing number of experienced seafarers who continue to work beyond the traditional retirement age. However, efforts are being made to encourage the younger generation to join the industry and maintain a balance in the age demographics of seafarers.
Some best practices could be continuous training onboard of younger aged seafarers from experienced professionals and not only company representatives, pre-vettings and aggressive cadetship and promotion of strict scheduling.
Reasons for Dominance
Several factors contribute to the Filipino market’s dominance in supplying seafarers and cadets to the global merchant fleet:
- English Proficiency: English is widely spoken and taught in the Philippines, giving Filipino seafarers a competitive edge in the international maritime industry, as English is the standard lingua franca of maritime communication.
- Quality Education and Training: The Philippine maritime education system is highly regarded, producing well-trained and competent seafarers. Maritime training institutions ensure seafarers meet international standards and possess the necessary skills for onboard operations.
- Cultural Proclivity: Filipinos have a natural affinity for seafaring due to their cultural orientation towards hard work, discipline, and strong family ties. The enduring belief in the importance of providing for their families motivates many Filipinos to pursue careers at sea.
- Cost-Competitiveness: The Filipino market offers a cost-effective labour pool of seafarers and cadets, making them an attractive choice for shipping companies worldwide. Filipino seafarers generally receive salaries commensurate with international standards, providing an optimal balance between quality and affordability.
Contributions to the Global Merchant Fleet
The Filipino market’s contribution to the global merchant fleet cannot be understated. Filipino seafarers and cadets offer a myriad of benefits, including:
1. Reliability and Competence: Filipino seafarers are renowned for their strong work ethic, commitment, and professionalism. Their dedication and competence have earned them a reputation for being reliable and trustworthy onboard vessels, ensuring the smooth functioning of maritime operations.
2. Versatility and Adaptability: Filipino seafarers are adaptable to various vessel types, enabling them to serve across different maritime industry sectors. They possess the necessary skills for deck, engine, and catering positions, thus providing flexibility in crewing arrangements.
3. Cultural Sensitivity: Filipino seafarers exhibit a high level of cultural sensitivity, facilitating practical cooperation and communication in a diverse and multinational work environment. This attribute is vital in fostering crew cohesion and maintaining harmonious working relationships.
4. Economic Contribution and Remittances: The Filipino maritime workforce contributes significantly to the national economy through the remittances they send back home. These remittances play a crucial role in improving the lives of their families and contributing to local economic development.
Is there a Shortage of skilled seafarers or a dangerous leakage of seafarers from the crew pool?
Despite this, there is still a consistent demand for Filipino seafarers in the global market. The shortage of skilled seafarers worldwide has created a higher demand for Filipino crew members due to their extensively trained and competent reputation. Consequently, the demand has influenced the contract duration and wages requested by Filipino seafarers. Shipowners and operators must often offer competitive compensation and attractive contract durations to attract and retain Filipino seafarers. This has led to increasing wages and improved benefits for Filipino seafarers compared to seafarers from other nationalities.
All of the above were
- results of the covid-era,
- war in Ukraine related to sanctions on Russian crew (sometimes) and obstacles on the logistics chain of crew changes and overall ship operations,
- creating a gap between the supplying countries of Ukraine and Russia,
- Picking up the demand from the most significant supply source, meaning the Philippines.
During the Russian and Ukrainian seafarer shortages caused by geopolitical tensions and conflicts, Filipino seafarers played a significant role in bridging the gap in the global seafarer supply.
Many companies that were focused the last two decades on seafarers pools from Ukraine and Russia shifted their operations and crew demands to the Philippines market, saturating the human resource market of the Philippines, causing the increase in wages, fewer contract durations and general demands from Filipino seafarers, that were not in place in the past. Their availability, skills, and training made them a viable choice for shipowners and operators who needed to replace Russian and Ukrainian seafarers. This further solidified the reputation of Filipino seafarers in the industry.
Apart from all the above, it is evident that many ship operators, due to lack of technological awareness and establishment, and due to resistance to change, that would allow them to become proactive on scheduling, promotion, appraising systems, their management and operational infrastructure are causing vital effects on their seafarers’ pool sustainability and retention.
Ship operators should have established a seamless integration amongst the appraisals, the training needs, the upskilling and further development of the seafarers, in line with their proactive scheduling for crew changes and promotions.
Using appraisals as a tool for identifying each seafarer’s separate areas for improvement and upskilling would assist and bond the seafarer that the company helps to remain with the company, while the seafarer foresees to career development and would have recognized the strive that the ship operator use to improve his skills. This approach will stop the leakage of seafarers from the ship operator’s pool, and the ship operator would document to any inspection or audit the continuous improvement of his procedures and operations, with best practices established.
Lacking a proactive appraisal system and using such as a tool for improvement and pool sustainability would create a problem for the company culture and awareness, generating blame cultures, last-minute responses and approaches, causing side effects to their seafarers’ pool coherence and sustainability.
That is when the ship operator creates a shortage internally by generating leakage of skilled seafarers due to the structure.
As with any industry, there are challenges, obstacles, opportunities, threats, results, strategies, strengths, and trends related to the supply of Filipino seafarers. Some challenges include the intense competition in the global market, fluctuating job availability, and the need for continuous training and skill development. However, the Philippines has several strengths, such as a large pool of trained seafarers, familiarity with the English language and international standards, and supportive government policies. The opportunities lie in further collaboration with international partners, expansion of training capacities, and developing niche maritime sectors.
In terms of the pros and cons of Filipino seafarers, the pros include their strong work ethic, adaptability, and willingness to undergo rigorous training. Filipino seafarers are also known for their excellent English communication skills, which are vital in a multinational crew environment. However, some cons can include cultural differences, potential language barriers with crews from other nationalities, and the need for continuous professional development to stay competitive.
The Filipino market’s supply of seafarers and cadets plays an integral role in the global merchant fleet, proving to be an invaluable asset to the maritime industry. Their English proficiency, quality education and training, cultural affinity for seafaring, and cost-competitiveness make them highly sought-after personnel for international shipping companies.
Filipino seafarers’ contributions, including their reliability, competence, versatility, adaptability, cultural sensitivity, and economic impact, have propelled them to the forefront of the global maritime workforce. As the Philippines continues to prioritize and enhance its maritime education and training programs, the nation’s role as a key supplier of seafarers and cadets is likely to strengthen further, ensuring the continued success and growth of the global merchant fleet.
In conclusion, the Filipino supply of seafarers remains robust despite challenges such as limited job opportunities for new cadets and an ageing demographic. The high demand for Filipino seafarers has positively impacted contract duration and wages. The industry’s future forecast shows growth opportunities, but consistent effort is required to address challenges and maintain competitiveness in the global market. Filipino seafarers have proven to be valuable assets, bridging gaps caused by geopolitical tensions and meeting the demand for skilled crew members worldwide.
Above article has been initially published in Linkedin and is provided by Elvictor Group Crew Managers and Crewing Agents as part of a new series of blog articles about the maritime industry.
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.