The Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) under its new administrator Angelo Verdan has took cognizance of the petition of the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) on behalf of the thousands of Filipino seafarers and the local maritime industry on the issue regarding the processing of Seafarer Identification and Record Book (SIRB) or the seamanís book.
Following the computerization of the SIRB processing early last year, it has figuratively smashed into a brick wall a few months later because of the apparent short supply of printed SIRB booklets, which according to some insiders then, were being sourced by MARINA from abroad.
Prior to the streamlining of the SIRB processing, long queues of agitated and irate Filipino seafarers have become an almost daily fixture at the offices of MARINA at Masagana Building along Taft Avenue in Manila late in 2008.
The UFS did not take the matter sitting down as usual and had in fact staged several protest rallies in front of the MARINA offices to call the attention of the agencyís leadership especially considering that the delay in the processing of the seamanís books has been wrecking havoc on the deployment of many Filipino seafarers and eventually put a dent on their income opportunities for their respective families.
Although the computerization has indeed improved the SIRB processing, the UFS still chided MARINA, under its then administrator and now Presidential Management Staff chief Ma. Elena Bautista for lack of foresight with regards to foreseeable problems on the streamlining process.
When Administrator Angelo Verdan assumed the leadership of MARINA vice Bautista in the first week of March 2010, the first order of battle for Engr. Nelson Ramirez, president of the UFS, was to have a courtesy call with the new administrator.
Ramirez frankly and openly laid down to the table all the issues and beefs that the UFS and the local maritime industry have against MARINA or its systems with focus on the SIRB processing and the crucial albeit controversial issue of maritime safety enforcement.
Verdan took the information in a professional manner and promised the UFS president that he would act on the matters once he gets a firm and clear grasp of root causes of the issues for MARINA to be able to address it.
Last Tuesday, April 20, 2010, Administrator Verdan announced to the maritime public that MARINA already has about 63,00 printed SIRB booklets available at the moment with about 20,000 more for delivery within the next couple of weeks. He said that the supply would be enough to process the outstanding seamanís book applications or renewal of a number Filipino seafarers within the next couple of months and that the SIRB processing would be back to normal before the end of April 2010.
He also reported that MARINA has already taken additional delivery of a number of special printers needed for the processing of seamanís books. ďSIRB processing would return to its normal pace by next week. Seamanís book would be ready for release within two to three days from the date of application, and one day for those subscribing to the expedite process within this week. Next week however, MARINA will try harder to process the SIRBs in one day.
Ramirez and the UFS acknowledged the swift action of the new MARINA administrator on the issue and also lauded Verdan for making it a top priority considering that the plights of thousands of Filipino seafarers and their families are involved.
Verdan also assured Ramirez and the UFS that he would act on the other issues brought to him during their first meeting. He even informally authorized Ramirez and the UFS to become MARINAís sounding board in the local seafaring industry so that whenever the union comes across problems or issues in the industry that needed MARINAís attention or action, it can bring the matter straight to him anytime.
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