By Wilnard Bacelonia
MANILA – A senator warned on Tuesday the present state of the global maritime industry and expanding geopolitical conflict are threatening the jobs of Filipino seafarers.
Senator Imee Marcos, in a news release, cited in particular the Houthi rebels constantly attacking cargo ships in the Red Sea which forced shipping companies to stop operating in the region.
“Shipping giants Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd have just announced a halt to their operations in the Red Sea, with Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacking more cargo ships to avenge the deaths of Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” Marcos said.
“This is happening while shipping companies are coping with higher costs, lower freight charges, and a weaker demand for container transport amid an oversupply of ships,” she added.
The Bab al-Mandab Strait acts as a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea via the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
Reports said about 10 to 12 percent of global trade passes through the area, or more than 17,000 ships each year.
In commemoration of the UN International Migrant Workers Day, Marcos urged the national government to “look at disruptive world events squarely” so that its programs for Filipino migrant workers remain relevant.
Marcos said Maersk is planning to cut 10,000 jobs and Hapag-Lloyd’s revenues dropped to 58 percent in third-quarter from a year earlier.
Iranian-backed Houthi rebels recently set a Hapag-Lloyd containership ablaze during a series of missile attacks, while the Maersk Gibraltar was also targeted, with a missile just missing it while it was transiting near Yemen.
Marcos noted that Filipinos comprise 40 percent of Maersk’s seafarers which is around 4,000 who might lose their jobs and would cause drop in remittances amounting to hundreds of millions annually.
Filipino seafarers, who are among the highest-paid overseas Filipino workers are required to remit at least 80 percent of their salary each month, contributing PHP6.7 billion or some 20 percent of the total remittances in 2022, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
As shipping companies take initiatives toward green energy, Marcos also called for better pay prospects and not just training programs for Filipino seafarers to be deployed on methanol-enabled ships
According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Philippines was the top source of seafarers in the world in 2021.
The Maritime Industry Authority also reported that the country deployed more than 400,000 Filipino seafarers overseas, on average, from 2016 to 2021. (PNA)