maritime industry

Manning agencies not reporting high-risk voyages face DMW sanctions

Michelle Abad

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Manning agencies not reporting high-risk voyages face DMW sanctions

INFILTRATION. A Houthi military helicopter flies over the Galaxy Leader cargo ship in the Red Sea in this photo released November 20, 2023.

Houthi Military Media via Reuters

Filipino seafarers who are informed they are set to go through high-risk areas like the Gulf of Aden will soon be able to download DMW forms to assert their right to refuse sailing

MANILA, Philippines – Manning agencies which do not report to Philippine authorities ships with Filipino seafarers that will pass through the high-risk Red Sea and Gulf of Aden will face sanctions from the Department of Migrant Workers, the DMW said Wednesday, March 20.

DMW officer-in-charge Hans Cacdac said that the department now requires maritime principals and licensed manning agencies to register as a “significant event” any of its ships that will pass through the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden through the DMW’s electronic Overseas Welfare Monitoring System (OWMS).

“Failure to do so – failure to register any ship that will pass through the Red Sea or Gulf of Aden will be under pain of sanction in accordance with the DMW rules,” said Cacdac.

The Red Sea and Gulf of Aden have been the site of attacks by Yemeni Houthi rebels, who claim to be acting in solidarity with Palestine amid Israel’s war with Hamas.

Two significant events involving Filipino seafarers have happened in this area – the hostage-taking of 17 seafarers aboard the Galaxy Leader vessel in November 2023, and the missile attack on the True Confidence vessel earlier in March, which led to the death of two Filipinos.

Cacdac said that before DMW Secretary Toots Ople died in 2023, she issued suspensions against principals and licensed manning agencies which did not comply with the DMW’s monitoring requirements.

Right to refuse sailing

In February, the International Bargaining Forum designated the Gulf of Aden as a “high-risk area (HRA).” Filipino seafarers onboard ships headed for HRAs have the right to refuse sailing, with repatriation at the company’s cost and extra compensation equal to two months’ basic wage.

Cacdac said on Wednesday that online forms which seafarers can use to assert their right to refuse sailing will soon be available on the DMW website. Since seafarers are informed of their routes before embarking on them, they can choose to back out. They can download the forms, fill these out, and email these back to the DMW.

The agency will also distribute forms to manning agencies for distribution to the seafarers. Cacdac said that the forms should be available within the week.

The DMW is also working on setting up a hotline as another option for seafarers to assert their right to refuse sailing.

“This is because there might be seafarers who don’t want to sail… but who fear reprisal if they do fill out the form,” said Cacdac.

While the Philippines has no hold over shipping routes, as ship owners have the discretion to go through HRAs, what the DMW does have control over is deploying the Filipino seafarers they need.

“And when principals and license planning agencies recruit seafarers, they process their seafarers with the DMW. And in so doing, there are obligations [to monitor and report]… They have to report that to us. It can’t be just a matter of element of surprise or a mysterious occurrence that something is only known when it is already happening,” Cacdac said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The remains of the two seafarers who were killed on the True Confidence bulk carrier were reportedly still on the ship as of Wednesday, with recovery operations still underway. The 13 who survived – including the two who suffered major injuries – have returned home to the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the 17 seafarers aboard the Galaxy Leader are still hostaged on the vessel, but are able to contact their families. The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said that the Houthis would not release them until the war between Israel and Hamas ends. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.