LIKE land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the country’s seafarers, through their remittances amounting to billions of dollars a year, help prop up the struggling economy.
Records show that some 100,000 OFWs, men and women, used to work aboard the world’s cruise ships. Large cruise ships usually have a crew complement of one-third Filipinos.
And another 50,000 mariners are aboard ocean-going merchant ships, working as skippers, engineers, electricians, cooks, waiters and waitresses.
Due to their exceptional skills, good command of the English language and ability to easily adapt to foreign culture, our highly-trained seafarers are in demand in the world market.
Today, however, many of the country’s mariners aboard the world’s cruise ships have returned to the Philippines as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
An estimated 10,000 seamen are still in the East Coast awaiting repatriation, while some 2,000-3,000 more are due to arrive this month aboard cruise ships from the Mediterranean.
Repatriated Filipino cruise ship crew members are hopeful that their foreign employers will rehire them when they resume operations in September or October this year.
“Pero ang masakit ay nandiyan pa rin ang COVID-19 sa Estados Unidos, Inglatera, Brazil at iba pang bansa na sinusubukang pigilan ang pagkalat ng virus,” said a son of a repatriated seaman.
In the view of many, all is not lost for our cruise ship OFWs, banking on the promise of their former employers to rehire them all when the cruise ship industry returns to normal next year.
Dapat lang kasi ang marinerong Pinoy ang “darling” ng maraming may-ari ng mga barko sa buong mundo.