Filipino owners hit out at 35-year-old ship phase-out plans

Shipowners in the Philippines are trying to torpedo a government initiative to ban ships over the age of 35 from operating.

The Southeast Asian nation is an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands with one of the worst maritime safety records in the world. Executive order 909 is designed to improve the country’s dire maritime record, calling for all ships over the age of 35 to be phased out.

However, members of the Philippine Roro Operators Association (PROA), Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators (VAFCSO) and the United Trampers Association of the Philippines (UTAP) have asked secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation to rethink the order.

The order was first tabled six years ago but has taken a long time to get authorities to pass the motion.

“Age is not a guaranty of safety, when we talk of ships, safety is number one, age is not the factor there, more on maintenance and proper manning, competence of crew especially the master. Phase out is not the right answer, it’s even illegal,” VAFCSO president Alex Cohon said yesterday.

The various shipping associations are arguing that the new ruling would see monopolies created as only a few firms would be able to afford to buy replacement tonnage.

Among its lengthy list of tragic casualties, the Philippines can lay claim to the worst maritime peacetime disaster, the 1987 sinking of the Dona Paz with the loss of an estimated 4,386 lives.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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