The real problem with PH’s maritime industry | Inquirer Opinion

The real problem with PH’s maritime industry

/ 12:01 AM September 11, 2015

This is in response to Arben Santos’ article titled “Modernizing PH maritime travel” (Talk of the Town, 8/30/15).

I served with Southfield Shipping as captain of the ships it managed—Gas Eastern from 1997 to 1998 and Gas Hope from 1999 to 2000. Southfield, having started with four ships—or was it five?—in 1994 and now with more than a hundred, is quite an achievement.


Admittedly, most of the issues raised by Santos as causes of accidents in domestic shipping are true, including “classification societies” (nongovernmental organizations that establish and maintain technical standards for the construction and operation of ships and offshore structures), poor design and overloading. However, from a professional seafarer’s perspective the general thrust of Santos’ contention only muddles the issue.

The real problem is incompetence, both in the private and government sectors. The Maritime Industry Authority, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Board of Marine Inquiry and the domestic shipping managers do not have the technical qualification and competence to manage the industry, thus making them the problem. Merchant ship operation is highly technical that even a successful businessman like Santos is not in a position to interfere. Santos did what people without knowledge in merchant ship operation do. Whenever a sea accident happens, media practitioners and politicians highlight things that are not directly related to the accident, like overloading, which only conceals the real issue, leaving it unaddressed.


A proof that Santos is not competent to speak about the primary cause of accidents in the domestic shipping industry is the inclusion of a list of maritime accidents, none of which is hardly directly attributed to his assertions, although to a certain extent are contributory. These accidents have human error as their primary cause. The frequency and gravity of these accidents are a measure of the competence of maritime managers, both in the government and private sector, in the necessary task of policing and overseeing the industry.

Concerned or interested Inquirer readers may visit my YouTube video, which delves into the causes of accidents in the domestic shipping industry.

—JOSEPH ARELLANO, retired ship captain, [email protected]

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TAGS: Board of Marine Inquiry, classification society, maritime industry, Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Coast Guard, Shipping
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