PH sailors’ cash transfers seen passing $6B mark this year

The cash sent home by Filipino sailors via bank channels alone is projected to surpass the $6 billion mark this year, the ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations said on Sunday.

“We expect the annual cash transfers from Filipino officers and ratings on international ocean-going vessels to continue to increase by mid to high single-digit rate,” said ACTS-OFW chairman Aniceto Bertiz III.

“The growth is being driven by sustained enlistment, amid the tight global supply of ship officers in particular,” Bertiz, a former member of Congress, said.

Filipino sailors remitted via bank wire a total of $4.87 billion in cash from January to September this year, up eight percent versus $4.51 billion in the same nine-month period in 2018, Bertiz said.

Bertiz said the bulk of the cash from Filipino sailors in the first three quarters came from:

· United States ($1.8 billion);

· Singapore ($512.5 million);

· Germany ($423.8 million);

· Japan ($388.1 million);

· United Kingdom ($242.5 million);

· Netherlands ($216.9 million);

· Hong Kong ($154.6 million);

· Panama ($126.9 million);

· Cyprus ($124.4 million); and

· Greece ($103.2 million).

Meanwhile, Bertiz welcomed a Department of Labor and Employment report indicating that 11 Filipino sailors kidnapped in two separate piracy attacks in West Africa earlier this month would likely be freed before Christmas.

“Piracy attacks, which have doubled this year, are a severe occupational hazard for our sailors, along with shipping accidents,” Bertiz said.

The Philippines is the world’s second-largest supplier of licensed ship officers next to China, and the biggest provider of unlicensed ship ratings or non-officer crew ahead of China, according to the London-based International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

The other top suppliers of ship officers and ratings are India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

ICS earlier cited a global shortage of some 16,500 ship officers and an oversupply of ratings.

ACTS-OFW is counting on the revival of the compulsory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program to boost the competitiveness of the country’s future sailors.

Shipping companies prefer to recruit merchant mariners with basic military skills, Bertiz said.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte had urged Congress to revive the mandatory two-year ROTC course for all male students in Grades 11 and 12.