The EU’s decision regarding STCW recognition of the Philippines lies with the EU member states and will be made on the basis of a proposal from the European Commission. That proposal will be based partly on findings from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) after several visits to the Philippines in recent years. This led to the EMSA raising concerns about the supervision of the quality of maritime education and the issuance of maritime certification. In response to these concerns, the Philippine government is working on reforms to systemic supervision. EU member states can adopt or reject the Commission’s proposal only by qualified majority.
In the unexpected event that recognition of the Philippines is withdrawn, this will apply to the whole European Union as member states may not deviate from this individually. In case of withdrawal of STCW recognition, the recognitions of individual certificates that have been already issued remain valid until the end of the term of that recognition. This is a maximum of five years, and the recognition of the certificate is valid only for the member state that issued it and is not transferable within the EU.
While the aforementioned transitional arrangement gives shipping companies leeway to avoid having to bid a definite farewell to their Filipino captains and officers, it no longer allows for promotions and employment as officers of trainees currently on board. Withdrawal of recognition will inevitably result in a shipping company having to end the employment of its Filipino captains and officers who have been with that shipping company for years and who are an essential part of that company’s quality and safety management processes.
If the EU were to decide to revoke the Philippines’ STCW recognition, this would create major problems for the European shipping sector. It is not possible to replace Filipino captains and officers with captains or officers from the Netherlands, the EU or from outside the EU, simply because they are not available on the labour market and cannot be trained in the short term.
Furthermore, due to developments in Russia and Ukraine, there is currently a very uncertain labour market for Russian and Ukrainian captains and officers. Withdrawal of the Philippines’ recognition will therefore lead to an outright crisis in the labour market for captains and officers of EU-flagged ships.
As a result of a withdrawal of European recognition, a substantial section of both the Dutch and European fleets will be affected. This may result in shipping companies with European-flagged vessels being forced to transfer to a non-EU flag. Then these ships can simply continue to be manned with Filipino captains and officers; business operations will not be jeopardised. Only then will cargo flows to and from and within Europe not be seriously disrupted. And only then there will be no supply chain problems and shortages/higher prices/inflation.