Ships carrying passengers and cargo are continually afloat in the sea lanes of the world. These behemoths of transportation need crews to service and maintain them and their passengers and cargo. Filipinos have historically filled a large contingent of these marine seafaring positions throughout the world. In fact, Filipinos account for the largest assembly of seafarers in the world.
Philippine Transportation Secretary Authur Dugade recently said: ?It is my hope for the Philippines to become a major international hub for crew change.? In the last four months alone, 734 ships have set anchor in the Port of Manila for the purpose of crew change. The Philippines is looking at becoming the largest international crew change player in the world. Besides Manila, the country has added three additional ports to help see this dream to fruition. Panila, Capinpin and our beloved Subic Bay are all included in the government?s designation as crew change ports. Additional ports that include Cebu, Davao and Batangas are also on the list for future consideration.
It is hoped that the hospitality industry along with the maritime and seafaring industries will be advanced by embracing the crew change port concept.
There is one problem though, for this hope to come to fruition, the Philippines had to change the way it did things. As it turned out, the country has had one of the strictest and longest running lockdowns for the coronavirus pandemic.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, 300,000 ship crew members were stranded at sea. To speed up crew change and to help minimize the spread of the disease, the Philippine government created the Green Lane guidelines. Senior government officials signed the agreement in July of 2020 in Manila. Green Lane provides guidelines for safe and quick disembarkation for thousands of Filipino and foreign sailors within its framework. This framework applies to both inbound and outbound sailors.
Japan counts on Filipinos for about 75% of its shipping crew requirements. Numerous Japanese-controlled ships have been sent to the Philippines to carry out crew changes during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Japanese have quickly adopted the Philippines Green Lane protocols for crew change.
Officials in the maritime industry are calling for a global approach for seafarers from around the world by adopting a common digital quarantine pass system using blockchain to implement a high-tech contact tracing system for the seafarers. Once all the countries agree on and implement this common protocol, it will help instill confidence in airlines and ports for allowing more fluid and certain crew changes. Qatar Airways stated it has capacity to fly three times daily to destinations in the Philippines. It is currently awaiting approval from the Philippines aviation authorities for the extra flight slots.
The Covid-19 pandemic has changed all our lives and caused us to make drastic changes in the way we live life. This is a learning process for all of us. The implementation of governmental and personal policies is crucial not only for the control of this pandemic, but also for the control of the next one that could quite possibly be right around the corner.
Viral infections seem to be on the rise. Since the beginning of the century, we have lived through SARS, Bird Flu, MERS, H1N1, Ebola and now Covid-19. As we continue to learn and grow through these, let us not forget what we have learned as we are build on our previous lessons in our approach to the viral infections of the future.
Besides the new crew change designation, Subic Bay is becoming increasingly crucial to the economy of our country in a myriad of ways. The ability for us to maintain a vibrant economy during pandemics is directly tied to governmental policy, protocols, and procedures. We as investors, are thankful for the government?s implementation of these standards as we grow towards the future.