Marcos cites need for more modern ships, highly trained Filipino seamen

THE PHILIPPINES should invest in human capital if it wants to modernize its shipping industry, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said on Monday, citing the need to respond to the global demand for a shift to clean energy and digitalization.

“There is a need for the shipping industry to adapt and integrate new developments into their fleets, starting with the retooling of existing ships and the building of newer and more modern ships equipped with these new technologies,” he told a shipping-seafarer summit on Monday.

The Philippines should identify new skills in making new ship models through education and training, the president said.

“Another 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,” he said.

Mr. Marcos Jr. urged the Maritime Industry Authority and Commission on Higher Education to work closely with the shipping industry in upskilling and reskilling Filipino seamen, who need to cope with the “shift of oceangoing vessels from using conventional fuel sources to green ammonia between 2030 to 2040.”

More than half-a-million Filipinos are “braving the vastness of the seas, comprising a quarter of the global maritime workforce,” the Philippine leader said.

The shipping industry accounts for about 3% of global carbon emissions.

To hit zero emissions by 2050, hydrogen-based fuels including ammonia should account for 30% of maritime fuel, according to the International Energy Agency.

Mr. Marcos noted that while 2050 might sound distant for now, “in the language of the seas, it will arrive in almost a heartbeat.” “Thus, it is vital that we now embark on a long-term, tangible and sustainable effort that will address the many demands of the maritime sector in the years to come.”

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Marcos promised to develop the local maritime sector and make the Philippines a logistics hub.

In 2021, there were 118 registered shipyards in the Philippines scattered across the country, 17 of which belonged to the medium and large-scale category, according to the Maritime Page website.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has said 80-90% of global trade is shipped by sea.

Reducing carbon emissions of the shipping sector and stricter environmental rules were among the top concerns of senior maritime stakeholders around the world, according to a report by Global Maritime Issues Monitor in September.

Geopolitical issues and workforce shortages were also cited as key issues likely to affect the sector in the coming years.

“The industry feels least prepared for autonomy technology and failure or shortfall in infrastructure,” it said.

Mr. Marcos last year ordered the Department of Transportation to draft a maritime industry development plan including training seamen and promoting cruise ship tourism.

He ordered the agency to focus on port upgrades to attract cruise ship visits, while boosting maritime education and training.

The European Commission in December cited deficiencies in the Philippines’ seafarer education, training and certification system, flagging poor compliance with a 1970s convention. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza