Filipino seafarers call for probe into practices that jeopardize safety

United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) has called on the Philippines’ Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) to create a safety action plan to reduce the risk of maritime accidents and to investigate allegations that the shipping industry has been “turning a blind eye” to rule breaking.

UFS president Nelson Ramirez said that one recent example entailed a company altering a vessel’s plimsoll mark to make her appear seaworthy, reported the Manila Bulletin.

“There are dodgy shipowners who are changing it, so they can load more cargoes and elude paying mandatory fees without considering the welfare of the passengers,” said Ramirez.

The UFS leader further alleged that most Philippines shipping companies did not adhere to the rules for properly lashing rolling cargoes aboard their ships.

Ramirez, a marine engineer, claimed that MARINA was permitting shipping companies in such practices, in contravention of the authority’s plans and programmes to ensure the safety of ships and passengers at sea.

“I insist that if MARINA is true to their word to create a policy and craft a maritime safety action plan intending to reduce maritime accidents, they must start investigating this mess,” Ramirez said.

“As long as there are corrupt and crooked local shipowners, maritime accidents are looming to happen,” Ramirez warned.

In addition, the UFS president alleged that the gross tonnage (GRT) of ships was being lowered from its original tonnage to avoid paying tonnage tax, wharfage charges or port fees to the authorities.