Panama offers licensing procedure for Filipino seafarers (Feature)

October 1, 2012 9:08 pm 

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, Oct. 1 – In recognition of the excellent seafaring skills of Filipino sailors, a maritime official of the Panamanian Embassy in the Philippines, has said they are offering Filipino officers and ratings the chance to acquire a maritime license from the above-mentioned country, thus making their employment aboard Panamanian-flagged vessels much easier and convenient.

Fernando Manfredo, the embassy's maritime evaluator, said that this offer of his country is in line with their effort to acquire good quality officers and crewmen to man ships flying the Panamanian flag whose numbers he estimates at 10,000 vessels of varying tonnages and types.

The Panamanian registry is the largest in the world and is bound to grow bigger as shipowners wishing to fly the Panamanian flag grow by two digits yearly.

"Filipino sailors interested in our offer are required to submit all of their pertinent documents to the Embassy of the Republic of Panama in Makati City, who will then forward it to the Panama Maritime Authority where it will be evaluated," Manfredo said.

Evaluation procedures normally take between one-and-a- half-month to two months, depending on the qualifications amassed by the prospective Filipino sailor interested in acquiring a Panama maritime license.

"We are offering this (Panamanian license) as the quality of the Filipino sailor is good and updated in all aspects of the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (SCTW)," the Panamanian official said.

Around 400,000 of the 1.2-million global seafarers force are known to be Filipinos.

After evaluation procedures, the papers of the Filipino license examinees will be forwarded to duly-accredited Panamanian maritime training center who will determine what courses or trainings the seafarers will take to be qualified for the issuance of a Panama license.

Manfredo declined to comment on how much the process will cost but said that this is also dependent on the knowledge and training experience mustered by the applicant.

He also pointed out that Panama's licensing procedure has been on board for almost two years already and that they have already done the same to seafarers in India, the Americas, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The program was started in the 1990s with the aim of hiring high quality seafarers for Panamanian vessels.

The Panamanian official emphasized that this procedure is a very useful documentary tool for Filipino sailors having difficulty in passing the qualification examinations issued by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) as they can use it for overseas work while reviewing for the Philippine version.

Manfredo also pointed out that the Panamanian maritime license has passed scrutiny by the International Maritime Organization and is compliant with the latest STCW updates.

He also said that their proposal is not meant to supplant the PRC's right to issue license to Filipino mariners but merely to complement it.

Former PRC board of marine deck Capt. Jun Arcellana concurred with Manfredo's explanations and said that the Panamanian license and other associated documents can only be used when working in vessels flying Panama's flag.

And to acquire more exposure, Filipino seafarers need to pass their PRC qualification tests and complete their management level courses (MLCs) to be promoted to responsible and well-paying jobs aboard ship.

"The Panamanian proposal is a good one as this will allow Filipino seafarers to corner the market in Panama- flagged ships but I am also recommending that they complete their MLCs and successfully pass their PRC examinations to be well-rounded seamen," Manfredo stressed. (PNA)

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