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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 January, 2004, 12:06 GMT
The Philippines men at sea
By Sarah Buckley
BBC News Online

The majority of the seamen on the cargo ship that capsized in a Norwegian fjord on Monday were from the Philippines, reflecting the prevalence of Filipino seafarers in the shipping industry.

A report in 2000 by the International Shipping Federation (ISF) and the Baltic and International Maritime Council (Bimco) found that the Philippines was by far the biggest provider of seamen, with 50,000 officers, and 180,000 ratings - workers below the officer rank.

MS Rocknes (file photo)
It is unclear what cause the Norwegian-owned MS Rocknes to capsize
Natasha Brown at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) said that seafaring life provided lucrative employment opportunities for people in the developing world.

"In some countries, the shipping industry offers a way out of poverty for many workers. Employment in the shipping industry provides access to foreign currency and a regular salary with a direct impact on the economic viability of seafarers and their extended families," she said.

She pointed out that the Philippines had a large number of maritime training colleges - the IMO website lists 98 such institutions in the country.

Sea change

Andrew Linington, head of communications at Numast (National Union of Marine Aviation and Shipping Transport Officers), said that while there has been mixed nationality crews since the time of Nelson, the trend had accelerated since the 1970s.

He said it was cheaper for a ship owner to register in a "flag of convenience" country, such as Liberia or Panama, which has a more relaxed view to registration, and to then use seafarers who have less qualifications.

The IMO said that there were minimum pay rates for seafarers of any nationality.

But Mr Linington claimed that rates for different nationalities still differed.

He said that a Filipino seafarer would receive 30-35% the wage of a UK or Western European seaman.

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