Philippines Reigns as the Number One Provider of Seafarers

by | Last updated Sep 14, 2023 | Career Guide | 0 comments

The Philippines continues to dominate the world’s seafaring market in a recent joint study conducted by BIMCO and ICS.

While the Russian Federation persists in the second spot, Indonesia, China, and India respectively land in the third, fourth, and fifth place.

Global seafarer manpower is estimated at 1,892,720 of which 857,540 are officers and 1,035,180 are ratings. 

These figures, according to the Seafarer Workforce Report 2021, still warn of a serious possible shortage of STCW-certified officers.

Aiming for the Top

Recalling the former Seafarer Workforce Report, previously the 2015 Manpower Report, China dominated the world’s supply of seafarers particularly for officers.

The Philippines was able to get second place for STCW-certified officers but actively secured the top spot for ratings.

Fast forward to 2021, the Philippines managed to dominate the global supply for both ratings and officers dethroning China which landed fourth on the list.

Eyes on the Prize

Currently, the Philippines supplies an estimated 30% of the global maritime workforce. The plan for becoming a top provider of seafarers was put into motion a few years ago.

Secretary Art Tugade in a speech wearing face shield and the Philippine flag behind him.
Secretary Art Tugade. Image taken from his Facebook Account.

Recalling the words of  Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade, he emphasized,

“We have the facilities, we have the people, we have the process, we will remain to be the number 1 producer of mariners and seamen in this world.”

This was his remark during MARINA’s 45th Anniversary held last 2019. We aimed to retain the country’s status as the top provider of well-educated and well-trained seafarers worldwide.

Supply and Demand Balance

The world’s supply of seafarers is up by 14.9% or a 245,226 increase since 2015- 1,647,494 vs. 1,892,720 (2021). This labor force operates over 74,000 vessels around the globe.

It is worth noting that currently, there is a shortfall of 26,240 STCW-certified officers. The trend of having demand outpacing the supply for certified officers has continued to persist for years already.

Officers in the Management Level are particularly high in demand especially Management Level Deck Officers for tankers and the offshore industry.

Opportunity for Careers At Sea

Although the retention rate for qualified officers working at sea is making good progress, it is still estimated that by 2026, we will need an additional 89,510 STCW-certified officers.

This number may look grim but it is also an opportunity for interested individuals to take a career at sea.

Since the average age of Management and Operational Level Officers has increased, training the younger generations will be the core of many companies to secure their workforce.

The Second Mate, Captain, Pilot, and helmsman on the bridge during pilotage operation.
Second Mate, Captain, Pilot and helmsman on the bridge

There are maritime scholarships offered to deserving students. These programs have been running for decades, training young cadets to become world-class seafarers.

Women On Board

There is a growing trend of “shefarers” or women seafarers penetrating this male-dominated industry.

An estimated 24,059 women seafarers serve on merchant ships worldwide. This is a staggering 45.8% increase compared to 2015 levels.

Overall, women seafarers represent 1.28% of the global seafarer workforce with most of them serving on cruise ships.

But there are also women serving across other sectors like Hiroka Suzuki who is working in a chemical tanker vessel.

Female second officer Hiroka Suzuki wearing her marine uniform while on duty inside the bridge.
Woman On board- Hiroka Suzuki

Filipinos. Still the Best Choice

Foreign shipowners are still looking for Filipino seafarers to man their ships. In fact, MARINA announced that we are already deploying to almost pre-pandemic levels.

In mid-2021, we sent 30,000 seafarers every month. As regulations for crew change ease, we will soon reach our pre-pandemic level which is at around 40,000 seamen per month.

These figures are very important since it means our employment helping lots of Filipino families. Moreover, seafarer’s salary and their remittances are an important contribution to our economy.

Work Ethics

Filipino Mariners have proven themselves in the international arena. We are known to be hard-working and flexible which is a necessary trait on board, especially during these COVID times.

Our attitude towards work is what shipowners admire including being adaptive to changing environments.

And yes, we are seafarers in nature. Not to mention that our labor market is more enticing than our Western counterparts.

The Philippines will continue to be a top provider of seafarers in the future. Now that you know an edge after reading this article, what’s your game plan for your career?

May the winds be in your favor.



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