US, Japan, Norway top remittance points of Pinoy seafarers

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
www.ofwjournalism.net

MANILA (OFW Journalism Consortium)—DATA per country from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed that the United States, Japan, and Norway are the top three remittance points for Filipino seafarers and the manning agencies that remit 80 percent of seafarers’ salaries to Filipino families.

From January to September this year, Filipino seafarers remitted $933.461 million through ports and remittance centers in the United States. Meanwhile, seafarers’ remittances coming from Japan reached $140.338 million, while those coming from Norway reached $119.338 million.

Other major remittance points for the country’s 274,497 seafarers in ocean-plying vessels are Germany with $91.672 million; the United Kingdom with $75.124 million; Greece with US$57.392 million; Singapore with US$54.659 million; Cyprus with $26.769 million; The Netherlands with $26.883 million; and Hong Kong with US$19.007 million.

From January-to-September this year, some US$1.669 billion in seafarers’ remittances were recorded, higher than the US$1.419 billion recorded during the same period in 2006.

If the per-country data are compared year-on-year, seafarers’ remittances coming from Norway rose by $55.119 million. The next three countries with the biggest rise of seafarers’ remittances are Germany ($52.618 million), the US ($51.450 million), and Japan ($22.751 million) (see Table 1).

Among the remittance points and origins of seafarers, Hong Kong had the largest remittance drop during the year-on-year period with $5.092 million.

Last year, of the US$12.761 billion in total remittances, some US$1.949 billion came from seafarers, Bangko Sentral data showed.

Usually, foreign principals and Philippine-based manning agencies hiring Filipino seafarers remit 80 percent of their monthly salaries to the seafarers’ families, says the 2005 study of the Asian Development Bank on remittances by overseas Filipino workers.

The remaining 20 percent of the seafarer’s pay, as well as overtime pay, is received on board and the Filipino seafarer usually brings this money home upon return to the Philippines when their seven-to-nine-month contracts end, the ADB study added.

But Sr. Aida Vertudez, staff of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) in Manila, said some Filipino seafarers also remit money when they stop over in international ports.

Some seafarers’ centers in these international ports, for example run by the Christian churches such as those by AOS and the Mission to Seafarers, facilitate and assist seafarers when they wish to send remittances to their origin countries, Vertudez told the OFW Journalism Consortium.

The standard employment contract (SEC) for seafarers that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) provides that a Filipino seafarers is paid his or her monthly wage not later than 15 days of the succeeding month from the date the contract commences, until the date of arrival at point of hire.

If a seafarer is paid on-board or in foreign ports, the money is subject to the currency control regulations at the port abroad, and to the official rate of exchange prevailing at the time of payment.

And every payday, when a seafarer makes a mandatory allotment of 80 percent of the total salary to his or her family in the Philippines, the foreign principal or manning agency remits the money (already in Philippine pesos) to the designated Philippine bank of the seafarer.

POEA’s 2006 data showed that Filipino seafarers worked in fleets whose flags of registry (FOCs) are owned by Panama, Bahamas, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Singapore, United Kingdom, Malta, Norway, Cyprus, and The Netherlands. The top five vessels of work by Filipino seafarers are passenger vessels, bulk carriers, container ships, tankers, and oil / product tankers.

Nearly half of the deployed seafarers in 2006 (49.76 percent) are ratings; as to their positions, the top five positions of work for seafarers are: able seaman (32,483), oiler (20,205), ordinary seaman (17,422), bosun (7,882), and second mate (7,859).

On the average, able seafarers and oilers earn US$1,500 monthly; bosuns earn US$1,700; chief cooks earn US$1,600; and third and second engineer officers earn US$2,350 and US$2,500 monthly, respectively.