Skip to main content

EU on seafarer training certificates

50,000 Filipino jobs saved

Unions are welcoming a decision from the EU maritime watchdog which avoids up to 50,000 Philippines-certified crew being barred from working aboard European-owned ships.  This was reported by the ITF on 14 April.

The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) announced in week commencing 2 April that it will continue to recognise STCW certificates (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) issued by Philippines-based training providers after the country’s president made moves to address decades-long problems with his country's seafarer training systems.

The EU had for many years been concerned about both the quality and consistency of training, with some graduates equipped to handle modern ships and others requiring supplemental training from employers. As far back as 2006, EMSA identified deficiencies and continued to find problems in the thirteen inspections it conducted since. The agency’s most recent audit, held last year, led to the country’s final warning.

ITF welcomes EMSA decision, optimistic on reforms

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), commented: ‘We are relieved to see EMSA pulling back from the brink with this decision and avoiding the risk of losing 50,000 of the world’s finest maritime professionals from working aboard European vessels.

I am sure that is very welcome by the European shipowners just as it is by Filipino crew, their families and their unions.’

Cotton said if EMSA had stopped recognising Filipino certificates, a ban would have sent economic shockwaves through the country’s economy. US$6.54 billion  in wages were sent home by Filipino crew working on international ships in 2019, alone.*

He added: ‘There’s no doubt that Filipino seafarers are prized in the industry for their skill, expertise, and professionalism: there is good reason that they remain the world’s number one source of seafarers.

Sadly, the quality and certification systems Filipino crew need to be able to rely on, have been lacking for some time now.’

The ITF and its Philippines-based affiliates had been advocating for years for Manila to iron out the country’s inconsistent training outcomes, along with dumping underperforming providers who consistently untrained crew.

ITF advising Marcos government  on training upgrade

It is understood that decision-makers in Brussels were convinced by recent announcements by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s administration to finally address the country’s years-long issues in training.

Alongside more immediate measures, Marcos ordered in December the establishment of a high-powered advisory council made up maritime industry experts.

Representatives from the ITF, ship owners’ association ICS, and other industry bodies will form the new ‘International Advisory Committee on Global Maritime Affairs’ (IACGMA). While its first task is to advise on the training and certification reforms needed, the committee’s ability to work across a multitude of government ministries and agencies on thorny and complex maritime sector issues is a model unions and shipowner groups hope will unlock progress on climate and other pressing issues facing the country’s maritime sector.

Cotton said the Advisory Committee was just one example of the way the sector had shown the Philippines was now on the right path to delivering the improvements industry, crew and regulators had been asking for.

He said: ‘I have every faith that we can get to a place where a Philippines certificate is synonymous with being first-rate and world-class. In many ways, Filipino crew already are.’

Just Transition, apprenticeships overhaul

Fabrizio Barcellona, ITF Seafarers’ Section Coordinator, added: ‘Training had never been more important for people working at sea. Climate change is driving a need for 800,000 seafarers to be trained or retrained to handle new fuels and technologies by 2030.

Countries with the better training systems will be able to respond better to the changing needs of the global seafaring market. Their seafarers will be more attractive to the growing number of shipowners who are already buying billions of dollars’ worth of new, next-generation vessels.’

Barcellona said more crew needed to spend more time on board early in their careers, allowing them to become familiar with the rapidly changing technologies found in vessels nowadays. He said the ITF would be raising both the training and climate issues through the advisory committee with government figures, because the issues were closely connected.

That is why the ITF is suggesting a major upgrade to the country’s systems of apprenticeships and cadet training, for ratings and for officers, respectively. The federation wants to see the Philippines shifting from a model of disorganised apprenticeship and cadetship arrangements, which are cobbled together temporarily between individual employers and training providers, to a new, modern and coordinated model with quality, enduring schemes backed by shipowners, unions and government.

A more structured, quality-assured system of bringing through officers and ratings would have benefits for the country, because shipowners, like those in Europe, could have greater confidence that Filipino crew were being equipped with the competencies required by modern vessels.

Exploitative ‘ambulance chasers’ in ITF’s sights

Just Transition and training were just a couple of the issues that are part of policy challenges that the Philippines’ government needed to tackle to improve employment and wellbeing for crew.

The ITF also planned to raise the need to overhaul the Philippines’ broken system of seafarer workplace compensation, which has overtime seen the rise of widespread predation of crew by so-called ‘ambulance chasing’ lawyers.

Employer fears about spurious legal actions have led many shipowners and ship managers from avoiding the recruitment of Filipino workers altogether.

Barcellona explained: These ‘ambulance chasers’ – these lawyers, they do not always have seafarers’ best interests at heart. Many simply use crew as a pawn to get an out-of-court settlement from an employer for themselves.’

Barcellona said it was common for the lawyer or their firm to issue seafarers with ethically questionable loans at predatory interest rates, as crew waited for the settlement promised to them. In practice, the long wait means crew have to look on as lawyers’ fees and mounting interest eats away at any payout they had once expected to receive.

Clean-up of manning agents ‘overdue’

The ITF is also demanding changes to the Philippines’ system of governing crewing, or manning, agents. While many were working honestly and effectively on behalf of seafarers, there remained a not insignificant number of crewing agents which repeatedly fail crew.

All crew seeking work on international ships are required to use an agent to be placed on a vessel. Once onboard, they have to send the majority of their wages home by allotments via that agent. Many agents charged crew unfair exchange rates when getting the allotments shoreside, effectively clipping the ticket twice on top of the fees they charge seafarers.

Agents are supposed to protect crew from irresponsible ship owners and potentially devastating outcomes from employer negligence, such as if an employer refuses to honour their obligations to pay crew. In that case, the agents are supposed to step in and cover the owed wages.

While the Philippines agent system is good on paper, giving effect to many of the Maritime Labour Convention’s principles intended to benefit workers in an uncertain industry, in practice the country’s poor enforcement of the rules meant many agents have been able to operate despite failing crew and breaking the law.

This situation had led the ITF to establish the website dedicated to helping crew steer clear of the agents which seafarers’ unions consider the worst.

These are all things which are central to the ITF agenda to support Filipino seafarers so that the Philippines can continue to be a maritime leader for decades to come,’ said Barcellona in conclusion.

* According to the central bank of the Republic of the Philippines Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Filipino seafarers remitted over US$6.53 billion in 2019 alone.

Picture caption

Credit: University of Asia and the Pacific ©.


Posted on: in:

Latest News & Events

The main approach channel and Berths 8&9 at Hutchison Ports Port of Felixstowe have been deepened to improve access for the world’s largest container ships.

The announcement was formally made today (4 October 2023) during the maiden call at the port of its namesake the OOCL Felixstowe, the latest in a series of 24,188 TEU mega container vessels operated by Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. (“OOCL”).

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports…

Role of Harbour Master/ Port Operations Professional
Port Call Optimisation
Ship image
Vessel Traffic Services
dock image
Emergency Management

Become a Member

Join the world’s premier professional body for harbour masters and receive up-to-date information on the industry and access to the members' area of the website.

Become a sponsor

Become a sponsor of the IHMA today and reap the benefits for your business:

  • Worldwide exposure
  • Prominence on the IHMA website
  • Instant access to your services and products for your existing and potential customers
  • Access to the key decision makers on marine operations in Ports – the Harbour Master
  • The opportunity to showcase your services and products at an international congress every two years

Be a part of the future of a vibrant, respected, professional and influential maritime organisation...IHMA

Download EHMC's Newsletter

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, ex vix insolens oportere accusamus, mea nulla aliquip virtute id, et commodo debitis voluptua mel. Vel ut doming scaevola, habemus gloriatur elaboraret ei pro.

Download archived

EHMC newsletter

Our Sponsors

Latest Events

QE2, Port Rashid, Dubai - Grand Foyer

Harbour Master & Towgae Conference

Hollywood Beach Marriott
Navtech Conference, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Navtech Conference 2023

Attention deep water and ocean towing masters, pilots, fleet management administrators, regulators and navigation operations professionals!

Join us in Fort Lauderdale for the maritime industry’s premier annual navigation forum!

Navtech, 5th and 6th December 2023, Hollywood Beach Marriott, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  • Learn about developments in navigational best practices, technology and regulation.

  • Engage with the regulatory and manufacturing sectors about your experiences, and your challenges.

  • Get access to the operations sector that actually uses navigation hardware and software.

Tanger Med Port Centre, Morocco
IHMA Congress 2024

Join us on a marine adventure in Morocco. The 14th International Harbour Master Congress will take place at Tanger Med Port Centre from 21-24 May 2024. This year’s theme is The Marine Adventure – Evolving and Adapting to Change in Today’s Ports. You are welcome to come along for three days of presentations, deliberations and discussions covering every step of the port call process. On the fourth day, you can enjoy a guided tour of the Port of Tranger Med. To learn more, or to register for the event, please visit the IHMA Congress EventBrite Page.

Introducing Tanger Med

Tanger Med is the 1st port in Africa and in the Mediterranean.

It’s a global logistics gateway located on the Strait of Gibraltar and connected to more than 180 ports worldwide with handling capacities of: 9 million containers, exports of 1 million new vehicles, transit of 7 million passengers and 700,000 trucks on an annual basis.

Cargoes handled


In 2021 7,173,870 TEU were handled in Tanger Med port complex, up by 24% compared to 2020. This traffic results from the steady increase of Tanger Med 2 port after the successive commissioning of the terminals TC4 in 2019 and TC3 in 2021.

This result confirms the leadership of Tanger Med in the Mediterranean and Africa, and consolidates the position of this major hub for global maritime alliances led respectively by Maersk Line, CMA CGM and Hapag Lloyd.


In 2021 101,054,713 tons of goods were handled for the first time in Tanger Med port complex, an increase of 25% compared to 2020. Indeed, the tonnage handled by Tanger Med port complex represents more than 50% of the overall tonnage handled by all Moroccan ports.


The port complex handled 407,459 trucks in 2021, a rise of 14% compared to 2020. This traffic was mainly driven by the resumption of industrial exports as well as by the good performance of the agricultural season and agro-industrial exports.


Regarding new vehicles 429,509 were handled at the two vehicle terminals of Tanger Med port in 2021, an increase of 20% compared to the previous year. The traffic included: 278,651 Renault vehicles including 250,532 for export. A rise in exports of PSA vehicles totalled 100,030 cars.

Liquid bulk

Liquid bulk traffic has increased by 9% compared to 2020. It recorded a total traffic of 8,744,900 tons of hydrocarbons handled.

Solid bulk

Solid bulk traffic recorded a total of 342,804 tons processed, an increase of 13% compared to 2020 driven by the traffic of steel coils, wind blades and grain.


Growing maritime traffic saw 10,902 vessels calling at Tanger Med in 2021, up by 12% from 2020. Over the past year, the port complex has welcomed nearly 929 mega-ships (over 290 metres loa).

The position of Tanger Med

This performance above accomplished during 2021 affirms the position of the port complex as a major strategic hub emphasising its role as a key logistics platform serving the nations logistic competitiveness.

Achievements are the result of the continued collaboration of all partners of Tanger Med port complex, particularly ship owners, concessionaires, local authorities and administrations.


Crown Towers, Perth, Australia

For 25 years AMPI has been recognised as the professional body for developing, setting and leading in the evolution of industry standards, safety management protocols and advising regulatory bodies on matters related to Marine Pilotage.

As a globally recognised organisation and partner of the International Maritime Pilots Association (IMPA), we directly contribute to the work of the International Maritime Organisation. With over 260 active pilot members, we have the experience and know-how to develop widely recognised industry guidelines including initial and continual pilotage training standards. AMPI continues to influence the development of world-leading practice and in doing so brings a higher level of safety to the ports and regions where our members operate.

Mayflower Park, Southampton, UK
SeaWork UK 2023


The 24th edition of Europe’s largest on-water commercial marine and workboat exhibition, is a proven platform to build business networks. Delivering an international audience of visitors supported by our trusted partners, Seawork is the meeting place for the commercial marine and workboat sector. 

Seawork encompasses 12,000m2 of undercover halls featuring 600 exhibitors and over 70 vessels and items of floating plant & equipment on the quayside and pontoons

Features include:

  • The European Commercial Marine Awards (ECMAs) and Innovations Showcase.
  • The Conference programme helps visitors to keep up to date with the latest challenges and emerging opportunities.
  • The Careers & Training Day on Thursday 15 June 2023 delivers a programme focused on careers in the commercial marine industry.
  • Speed@Seawork on Monday 12 June at the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes offers a sector specific event for fast vessels operating at high speed for security interventions and Search & Rescue.

For more information and to register to attend see:

2023 Dates & Times
09:30 - 17:30 Tuesday 13 June 2023
09:30 - 17:30 Wednesday 14 June 2023
09:30 - 16:00 Thursday 15 June 2023

Exhibition Address
Mayflower Park
SO14 2AN, United Kingdom


Commercial Marine Sales Team:
Tel: +44 1329 825 335
  Exhibition Manager:  Fay Reeve
  Tel: +44 1329 825 335
  Press, PR & Social Media Team:
  Tel: +44 1329 825 335

This block is broken or missing. You may be missing content or you might need to enable the original module.

Download the IHMA Constitution

The IHMA constitution sets out the establishment of a region of the IHMA, the committee role and authority, its formation and management.

Latest News & Events

Harbour Master & Towage Conference

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports in cooperation with KOTUG.


Latest News & Events

The main approach channel and Berths 8&9 at Hutchison Ports Port of Felixstowe have been deepened to improve access for the world’s largest container ships.

The announcement was formally made today (4 October 2023) during the maiden call at the port of its namesake the OOCL Felixstowe, the latest in a series of 24,188 TEU mega container vessels operated by Orient Overseas Container Line Ltd. (“OOCL”).

Under the patronage of the Minsitry of Energy & Infrastructure and hosted by Fichte & Co and RAK Ports…