President Marcos Jr. and shipping industry put seafarer top of agenda at Manila summit

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Groups representing the shipping industry have hailed the success of a key summit in the Philippines aimed at strengthening the seafaring workforce, after President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr commended the event as an “extremely important gathering.”

The President addressed attendees of the ‘Shaping the Future of Shipping: Seafarer 2050’ yesterday (26 June) in Manila. The summit was a gathering of employers, shipowners and unions solely focused on prioritising the needs of seafarers around the world.

President Marcos Jr. remarked: “We are proud of the title as the seafaring capital of the world, with half a million Filipinos braving the vastness of the seas, comprising a quarter of the global maritime workforce. We are also grateful for the opportunities that our seafarers have created and are thankful for the wealth that they have brought home. I thus assure everyone that this government will continue strengthening maritime related policies and protecting our seafarers and their loved ones.”

Adding: “As President, I reiterate my directive to the Maritime Industry Authority and the Commission on Higher Education to work closely with the shipping industry on the upskilling and reskilling of Filipino seafarers to prepare them for the shift of ocean-going vessels from using conventional fuel sources to green ammonia between 2030 to 2040. Moreover, I enjoin national government agencies, multi-layer organisers, and private stakeholders to work together in identifying strategies to ensure the availability of skilled workers to fulfil the requirements of the shipping industry. This is expected to significantly increase by the year 2050.”

The event was organised by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the International Maritime Employers’ Council Ltd. (IMEC) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), with the Filipino Shipowners’ Association (FSA). They convened leading maritime stakeholders at a time when recruitment and retention of seafarers is of paramount importance.

In his speech, President Marcos Jr. noted: “Now we find ourselves at a turning point for this very crucial sector. In recent years the entire transportation industry, including shipping of course, is undergoing a huge transformation marked by the coming of new and sustainable fuels, as well as an increasing deployment of digitisation and automation.”

He added: “A central part of this change necessarily includes investing in a highly qualified and well-trained workforce that will build, maintain, and man these shipping vessels and sail towards other opportunities.”

Delegates examined the opportunities and challenges facing the world’s nearly two million seafarers over the coming decades, including increasing automation and digitisation, and the production and transportation of future fuels.

The agenda prioritised education, capacity-building, recruitment, and retention and just transition strategies to strengthen the industry’s future amidst evolving challenges.

Emanuele Grimaldi, Chairman of the ICS board, remarked: “It’s the right time to put seafarers centre stage. We’re delighted to have brought together the global maritime community for the first time to remind the world of seafarers’ unique value to society, and to discuss solutions and opportunities for future generations.

“ICS are committed to actioning the outcomes of the summit, in partnership with governments, employers, and unions to continue to evolve our industry for the better, building on the collaboration that was fundamental to ending the pandemic crew change crisis.”

Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the ITF, said: “Seafarers are rightfully at the top of the agenda because they are the professionals that will drive and define the future of the shipping industry. This summit presents us all with a ground- breaking opportunity to define what skills, what technologies, what standards of training, will be needed in the future, and to ensure that the seafarers who move the world’s cargo are at the centre of driving the transformation of our industry.”

“Whether it’s to combat climate change or the other challenges facing the industry, we must utilise this opportunity to raise standards across the industry and within our regulatory bodies like the IMO, to ensure that shipping is sustainable in every sense of the word – socially, environmentally and economically.”

Capt. Belal Ahmed, Chairman of IMEC, concluded: “Principal partners of Global Maritime Industry came together for a successful summit and committed to work together to ensure Seafarers are centre point of all we do. Industry challenges due to climate change, technological innovation will require huge investment in Seafarers Skill upgrade.

“We at IMEC are committed to work together with employers, our social partners ITF and our industry Partner ICS to ensure the transition to 2050 is achieved together. IMEC wishes to thank President Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos Jr. for his keen interest of the welfare of Seafarers by attending the Manila Maritime Summit. We hope this summit will mark the beginning of cooperation by ALL in the Maritime industry.”

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