Home » Maritime » Visayas shipowners’ Mar 1 strike won’t cripple trade

THE Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) is confident a planned strike by Cebu-based shipping operators will not result in a trade bottleneck, claiming bigger operators will skip the protest.

The 32-member firm Visayan Association of Ferryboats and Coastwise Service Operators (VAFCSO) is threatening to go on strike on March 1 to protest “impractical Marina circulars on safety”.

VAFCSO members operate at least 200 vessels deployed mostly in the Visayas. They account for more than half of the region’s passage and cargo traffic. Members include Cokaliong Shipping Lines Inc, Trans-Asia Shipping Lines, Roble Shipping Inc.

Among policies VAFCSO is opposing are the mandatory requirement for Protection and Indemnity (P&I) life insurance coverage scheduled to take effect on February 20, and the life-saving appliance guideline which specifies the number of life jackets that should be on board a vessel, claiming this to be too expensive.

In a press briefing on Monday, Marina administrator Ma. Elena Bautista said, “We are upgrading the standards for safety; they (shipowners) must get a third party or join a P&I club so that when something happens to their vessels, the P&I Club will shoulder the expenses.”

The protest of VAFCSO members, she said, “only shows they don’t like higher safety standards and are only concerned with profits instead of the safety of their passengers. If they disrupt public service, we will cancel their CPC (Certificate of Public Convenience), and this move was approved by the Marina Board.”

She added, “Big shipping companies such as Aboitiz Transport Shipping, Negros Navigation, Gothong Lines and Sulpicio Lines, which are not members of VAFCSO, will take up the slack.”

She said government has also prepared “Oplan Dolphin,” which places on standby the Philippine Coast Guard, Department of National Defense and Marina for needs of passengers and cargo shippers.

Calling for a replacement

Since Bautista’s appointment as Marina chief in September 2008, VAFCSO has been calling for her replacement by either Philippine Ports Authority general manager and former Marina administrator Atty. Oscar Sevilla; PPA assistant general manager and former Marina deputy administrator for planning Atty Gloria Bañas; former Navy Rear Admiral Pio Garrido; or National Development Co-Maritime Leasing Corp president Agustin Bengzon, also a former Marina administrator.

VAFCSO board member Jose Emery Roble, president and chief executive officer of Roble Shipping Inc, claimed Bautista’s resignation is not only the call of their organization but also other maritime organizations from other parts of the country.

Roble earlier said the planned March 1 “maritime holiday” is a strong signal against Bautista’s unreasonable policies.

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