The Filipino Association for Mariners' Employment, Inc. began as an informal group in 1971. Capt. Benjamin P. Mata of B. P. Mata & Co., Inc., Capt. Asisclo A. Castañeda of Abacast Shipping Inc., Mr. Jesus B. Avecilla of JBA Shipping Services, Inc., Mr. Peter Toundjis of El Greco Shipping Enterprises, Capt. Oscar N. Grande of Pacific Seamen Services, Inc., and Col. Deogracias Caballero of Altamar International Shipping Co., Inc., used to hop from one restaurant to another along Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard), in Ermita and Intramuros discussing issues then affecting the manning industry.
When Martial Law was declared in 1972, the group had to cease meeting in the open. A Malacañang directive requiring prior government approval to allow meetings of five or more persons did not prevent them from holding their usual exchange of ideas. This time, however, they had to meet in their residences.
The major concern of legitimate manning agencies at that time was the proliferation of numerous fly-by-night entities that gypped unsuspecting applicants to non-existing job contracts. As a result, unfavorable news items were aired and printed all over the place.
The predecessors of FAME realized the need to organize. They must disassociate themselves from those who caused the rash of adverse publicity.
On March 19, 1974, FAME was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) transforming the loose group into a formal organization with a legal personality.
Incorporators of the Association were as follows:
- Capt. Benjamin P. Mata (B.P. Mata & Co., Inc.) as President;
- Mr. Peter N. Toundjis (El Greco Shipping Enterprises), Vice President and Treasurer;
- Capt. Oscar N. Grande (Pacific Seamen Services, Inc.), Corporate Secretary;
- Jesus B. Avecilla (JBA Shipping Services, Inc.), Director;
- Capt. Inocencio P. Estaniel (Overseas Recruitment Corp.), Director;
- Ma. Carlos Victoria (Intercrew Phils.), Director;
- Mr. Florencio K. Tamayo (Citadel Lines), Director;
- Mr. Florencio Padilla (Bradman Co.), Director.
The main objectives of having the Association organized were the following:
- To unite all legitimate shipmanning companies for a more formidable presence in and source of the world's maritime labor force;
- To promote safety of life and property at sea; and, to protect the marine environment through strict adherence to IMO conventions, including the STCW Convention '78,as amended;
- To consistently ensure the competency of the Filipino seafarers within international standards as its collective response to the challenges of globalization;
- To establish close coordination with the government for reciprocity of assistance in terms of privileges, exemptions or concessions as may be beneficial in compliance with international and statutory requirements;
- To assist in the improvement of the welfare of seafarers through participation in various government endeavors to further develop and maintain the competitive spirit of the Filipino Seafarers and others which shall include but not limited to the ratification of international conventions;
- To encourage a quality management system among its members; to enhance the reliability and effectiveness of its goods and/or services;
- To instill professionalism among its members through governance and adherence to a Code of Ethics;
- To initiate proposals towards reduction of bureaucratic requirements or red tape of government entities regulating the shipmanning industry;
- To enter into any lawful agreement with any foreign national or entity in the furtherance of its objective; and
- To conduct and transact any and all lawful activities; and, to do or cause to be done any or more of the acts set forth in the preceding objectives desirable to the accomplishment of its purposes.
Prior to FAME's existence, international developments contributed to the gradual shaping up of the Philippine manning industry. According to the book entitled "The Philippine Crewing Industry" authored by Peter N. Toundjis, the industry came out of a curious mix - war, industrial expansion and manpower shortage. The book discussed the beginning of an infant industry, its prospects, early problems and recommended solutions to these problems. "The maritime countries are at the core of it, led by Greece which, in possession of roughly 5,500 bottoms and controls over one fourth of the world's merchant shipping.
"The growth of Greek merchant fleet since World War II has been so rapid that there are not enough Greeks to man Greek ships. Greek shipping totals more then 80 million tons of floating material. Growing at the rate of 15 per cent per year, it must develop new crews. Consequently, it has had to tap manpower sources in its immediate surroundings, initially Turkey and Yugoslavia. Eventually it was drawing men from as far west as Spain, and as far east as Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, and as far south as the South African countries. As it grew, it had to dip into Southeast Asia, specifically India and Pakistan.
"The manpower problem was compounded by war in Asia and the Middle East as well as by industrial expansion in Europe. The Sino-Indian war in the early 1960s drew Indians out of shipping and into the Indian Army. The Indo-Pakistani war in 1972 had the same result. The fighting in the Middle East cancelled Egypt and Syria as a manpower source for shipping. On the other hand, industrial expansion in Europe, especially in West Germany, competed with shipping for migrant labor, Greece and other major maritime powers had to look farther a field for crews - in the Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan".
Toundjis further wrote, in the mid-70's, about 70 manning agencies deployed some 25,000 seafarers to Greek, American, German, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, British, Canadian and Japanese Vessels.
'On the basis of earnings averaging $200 mean take home pay per month per man (with all food and lodging expenses paid), $5 million per month or $60 million per year to the foreign exchange reserve without cost to the government. This excludes extras totaling $80 per man, representing expenses incurred by shipowning companies in obtaining passports and visas, or an aggregate of $2 million. With the price of oil having gone up three times, this is a significant contribution. Oil has to be imported with foreign exchange'.
The manning industry is yet to introduce its potentials in the international market. However it began experiencing difficulties identified by the same writer as follows:
- Government red tape. Shipowning companies are not conditioned to accept it. They take considerable risk in transporting cargo and to avoid losses, they have to move their vessels as fast as possible. They cannot afford delays, and government red tape means precisely that.
- Reneging on contracts. Only a small percentage of Filipino seamen are guilty of deserting at the first American port, joining the crew of another ship, or demanding pay increases in the high seas. However, this minority frustrates international shipping companies.
Current Membership Profile
After 38 years of carving a niche in the manning industry, FAME now prides itself with 127 members, supplying about 75% of the annual industry's deployment. The Association has under its wings about 30% of the licensed manning agencies accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
A 34% majority of FAME members have been in operation for more than 10 years although the organization remains as a melting pot of old and new companies. While 30.85% of the membership has a corporate existence of 21 years onwards, a considerable 15.95% are within their first five years of operation. Another big bloc next to the old timers are those belonging to the 6-10 years bracket which is 24.45% of the total membership.
Declaration of Commitment
History repeats itself. Through the years the industry is continuously faced with almost the same problems though recently they take different forms and shapes. In one way or another, manning issues have become complicated these days. Solutions to primary issues have been identified as early as the 70's. Sadly, the government's political will to change the status quo towards achieving a better system is yet to be realized. In its 30 years of service to the industry, the Association faced every challenge with resolute judgment and compassion. This is the legacy FAME has preserved and will proudly pass on to its posterity.
Forty years of existence is more than just being part of history - it is an achievement itself. For the Association, this is just the beginning of another expedition towards the next millennium. FAME shall always be there to mightily navigate the wheel of change towards a magnanimous and unperturbed Philippine Manning Industry in the 21st century.