Solon pushes online MLC, maritime panel

A congressman from Zamboanga is pushing for the creation of a House committee on maritime affairs and the online conduct of Management Level Course for ship officers as support for a legislative investigation on the controversial training snowballs.

Zamboanga City 1st District Rep. Khymer Olaso, a former ship captain, made the proposal during his interview with the Daily Tribune’s digital show Usapang OFW: Maritime Corner on Wednesday, while revealing his plan to also file a resolution for the investigation of the MLC.

“We really need to talk so in Congress, I even filed a resolution asking our speaker to establish a Committee on Maritime Affairs to focus on deficiencies in maritime education and training, among others,” Olaso said, stressing that the maritime industry is important to the country’s economy.

Olaso recalled his talk last week with Maritime Industry Authority Administrator Hernani Fabia who said earlier he is reimposing the MLC after the European Maritime Safety Agency found in an audit deficiencies in the training of Filipino ship officers.

“I also explained to him that the MLC would add another burden to Filipino seafarers as they are obliged to pay a huge amount for this particular training alone, plus the roughly three months of undertaking it,” Olaso said.

The MLC for deck and engine officers became optional in May 2021. Deck officers take about two months to complete it and two-and-a-half-months for engine officers at a minimum cost of P45,000.
Olaso suggested that the course be allowed to be taken online.

“I also asked him why not make it (MLC training) online, as seafarers can do it while onboard without compromising their vacation with their families when their contract ends. There are approved training modules online and you can evaluate them on a weekly basis,” Olaso said.

The lawmaker agrees that seafarers should upskill to maintain their competency.

“If the seafarers don’t know what to answer on (port and vessel) checker’s question, then it’s a big problem for the shipowners. These seafarers might end up losing their jobs and going home ending their contracts. We need the training, but let’s have a balance in imposing it. Let’s make it online,” he said.

Earlier, KABAYAN Partylist Rep. Ron Salo and One Filipinos Worldwide Partylist Rep. Marissa del Mar-Magsino filed resolutions seeking an inquiry on the MLC in aid of legislation.

Last week, Senator Raffy Tulfo grilled officials of Marina regarding the MLC reimposition and for the regulator’s seeming failure to implement proper education and training of Filipino seafarers for the past years, prompting some foreign shipowners to hire crews from other countries.

Fabia maintains that the MLC should be reimposed for the country to stay in the International Maritime Organization’s Whitelist, which includes countries complying with the 1978 Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping Convention for Seafarers as amended.

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