Doubling the number of Crew
OSM is eyeing to double the number of its Filipino ship crew by 2018.

OSM is eyeing to double the number of its Filipino ship crew by 2018 despite the uncertainty on the results of the assessment conducted by the European Maritime Safety Audit (EMSA) on the country’s compliance with the international convention on maritime education and accreditation standards.

Tommy Olofsen of Cypress, Managing Director Crew Management, OSM Maritime Group said the overdue resolution of the EMSA audit is not affecting the international company’s plans to continuously hire more Filipino seafarers to man its ships.

“Our ambition is to grow our number of seafarers to 20,000 by 2018. Today, we have about 10,000 crew and half of them are Filipinos. Our aim is to double our size so that by the end of 2018, we should have hired 10,000 Filipino seafarers,” said Olofsen during Friday’s launch of OSM Manila’s Adonis Donato Foundation.

Olofsen expressed confidence that the Philippines will get past the EMSA audit. Failing the EMSA audit will disenfranchise Filipino seafarers from being hired by European-flagged vessels.

“I don’t think the Philippines will fail the EMSA audit. I think the commitment that the Philippines authorities have taken to improve the quality of the controls and mechanisms are so strong that I think it won’t be a problem to pass the audit,” he said.

Since the EMSA audit, the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) has taken steps to improve the education and accreditation of officers and ratings, including recognizing higher education institutions for their Marine Engineering and Marine Transportation programs. Attending a recognized school is now a prerequisite for the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) certification.

The EMSA audit of the Philippines’ compliance to the 1978 International Convention on STCW dates back in 2006. The result of the EMSA audit will be the basis of the European Commission in deciding whether or not to continue recognition of Filipino seafarers’ STCW certificates.

What is at stake at the EMSA audit findings is the Filipinos’ opportunities to work for European shipping lines. Based on government records, at least 80,000 Filipino seafarers are currently working under European Union-flagged vessels, excluding some 14,000 Filipino officers.

“We have seen huge improvement in the quality issuance of competence in the Philippines. We are not there yet but I think the Philippines is on the right track,” Olofsen said.

The OSM Group, which has offices in 26 countries, has preferred to hire Filipino workers for both its sea and land based manpower. Olofsen said that some of OSM’s vessel support and back office support are done in the Philippines and that its Manila office has about 300 employees.