International Journal
on Marine Navigation
and Safety of Sea Transportation
Volume 4
Number 3
September 2010
The current shortage of officers in the world man-
ning industry has become alarming with the estimat-
ed shortage of about 16,000 officers as of 2006, and
predicted to rise to about 46,000 by 2010 according
to a study conducted by Belcher, et. al. (2003).
About 1/3 of the world’s seafarers today are Fili-
pinos (Amante, 2003). It is observed that a great
number of Filipino officers transfer from one com-
pany to another in consideration of a higher salary.
While it is true to some seafarers that salary is
important to keep them from their jobs, to some sea-
farers, security of the job is more important than sal-
ary. Thus, the questions is, “Is the amount of salary
an assurance for a manning or shipping company to
keep their officers and crew?”
During the 8
Asia-Pacific Conference for Man-
ning and Training held in Manila last November 14-
15, 2007, one of the speakers mentioned that seafar-
ers are just like prostitutes.
But why is a seafarer likened or compared to a
prostitute? A prostitute in a club goes for the guy
with the most money, or the highest bidder. Like-
wise, Filipino seafarers today, also go to the compa-
ny which offers the most money for the position.
Doris Magsaysay-Ho, chairman of Magsaysay
Maritime Corporation and president of the Philip-
pine Seafarers Promotion Council, said that ship
owners who refuse to spend money on training are
spreading havoc by poaching qualified crew from
companies that have invested wisely (Lloyd’s List,
2006). She further claimed that other ship owners
have not prepared for the shortages of manpower
and have been causing havoc to the market by pirat-
ing people.
The same opinion was aired by Wang(2006) and
he warned that despite the ship owners efforts to
train quality officers and ratings, they are under the
constant threat of losing their skilled people to com-
panies which do not invest in the training, and do not
build up quality seafarers. The combination of this
poaching and the scarcity of skilled seafarers had
driven the salaries of some masters to $16,000 per
According to Chee How (2007) ship owners and
ship managers must invest in the training and up-
grading of the skills of the seafarers sailing on board
ships to grow the pool of skilled manpower.
It is in this context that the study was studied.
This inquiry aimed to determine the following:
1 What are the practices of the different crewing
and manning companies in the recruitment of the
officers and crew?
2 How many of the companies practice poaching?
Are salaries determinants in keeping their officers
and crew?
3 What other programs do companies have for the
seafarers and their family in order to be able to
wisely manage the allotment or even increase
their monthly salary?
Officers as Prostitutes: Myth or Reality? (A
Study on Poaching of Officers in the
M. Magramo, G. Eler, J. Calambuhay & L. Bernas
John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University, Iloilo City, Philippines
ABSTRACT: This descriptive-qualitative research looked into the reasons why a seafarer is likened to a pros-
titute and in what aspects they are alike. It also aimed to determine from the key informants the practices and
or procedures employed by shipping and manning companies in order to fill in the much needed position on
board that has become a scarcity in the last years. Likewise it aimed to determine how these manning compa-
nies keep their present pool of officers in their rooster. What are the strategies employed by the different
manning companies in keeping their officers and crew loyal to their respective companies?
This descriptive-qualitative phenomenological re-
search delved into the investigation of the different
hiring practices employed by the manning and ship-
ping companies amidst the shortage of qualified and
competent officers in the global manning industry. It
also aimed to determine if salary is a determining
factor in keeping their officers and crew. Likewise,
it aimed to find out what measures are taken by the
manning and shipping companies for their officers
and crew to be loyal to their company.
This study utilized in-depth interviews with key
informants in this research. The respondents were
the different manning and shipping company man-
agers, officers and some crew members.
3.1 Modes of analysis
3.1.1 Career development plan
Keeping their officers and crew one company
which does not join the game of poaching is K-Line.
As of September 2007, the company has a retention
rate of 96% of their officers. It has a career devel-
opment program for their scholars. They frequently
visit their scholars in the different maritime schools
in the country, making them feel that they are part of
the company. True enough, this researcher personal-
ly attests to the fact that it is K-Line who is among
the very few companies that recruit their potential
officers through scholarship programs. This manner
of training potential officers was stressed by the
company president, Mrs. Virginia Linesis during the
interview. She further mentioned that the company
always looks forward to the development of its of-
ficers and crew, which means that the officers are
not only trained to be competent for the present posi-
tion but also for the next position. In this company,
all the officers and crew have a career development
program. “If you are a 2
Officer now, you should
take courses required for a Chief Officer, We even
advise 2
officers to study the job of the chief of-
ficer during their break times,” said Mrs. Linesis.
These researchers were happy to note that of the six
(6) scholars who have become captains in their
company, four (4) are from this university.
At K-Line, the career path is strictly followed.
Opportunities are given, but it is really up to the
crew to grab it. Some of these courses are career de-
velopment, emotional quotient, psychological test
and anger management.
At Philippine Transmarine Carriers, the turn-
over rate is 85%. They lost some of their officers to
poachers despite the fact they are giving other bene-
fits like health and insurance plans. As part of the
program on social responsibility, PTC has developed
the PTC Villages, a housing development program
in Imus, Cavite. Presently, there are 300 houses
through PAG-IBIG Fund, payable in 20 years. Just
like K-Line, PTC likewise has a career development
program for its officers and crew.
3.1.2 The practice of poaching
On the issue of poaching or prostitution of seafar-
ers, majority (12 of the 14 respondents) of the inter-
viewees practice poaching. They usually assign an
employee to do the hiring at the Seafarers Center
near Luneta in Manila. According to a general op-
erations manager we have interviewed: “If other
companies are doing that in order to attract the sea-
farers, they, too are doing the same thing.” Poaching
is the name of the game right now according to Mrs.
Linesis. This was also aptly mentioned by Surish
(2007) that right now, there is a wage war in the
Philippines. Wage wars are inevitable when demand
outstrips supply, but wage wars do not buy loyalty.
On the contrary, wage wars encourage mercenary at-
titude among officers, which results in company
hopping. These also discourage professionalism and
career development through loyalty to a single em-
ployer. According to Mrs. Carla Limcaoco, Vice-
chairman of Philippine Transmarine Carriers, the
word prostitutes being likened to seafarers is true. “It
seems we are all scary and we are all concerned be-
cause it removes professionalism.” The money ac-
cording to her is so tempting. It’s hard to resist. If
this practice continues and younger generation will
use this as work ethics, then it is indeed scary for the
3.1.3 The offers are too tempting to resist
On the part of the seafarer, these researchers were
able to interview two captains who have just disem-
barked their vessels. They are forced to accept the
good offer because they have to be practical. The
good captains told us that a seafarer is only as good
as his contract lasts. What does he mean by this? If
something happens to the seaman while he is taking
his vacation, he will not be able to claim anything
from his latest company because his contract has al-
ready terminated. After four months of the termina-
tion of the contract, a seaman cannot avail of his
medical benefits anymore, unless he signs a new
On other programs the companies have for their
officers and crew. The Philippine Transmarine Car-
riers, not only has a career development program for
its officers and crew, but also has a family and crew
service department that focuses on the family. It
conducts monthly seminar on different topics espe-
cially financial management for the wives of the sea-
farers. This is also practiced at K-Line. At Wallem
Maritime Services, a family center which coordi-
nates with the families of the seafarers is one of its
programs. Thus, the family is always welcome to en-
tertain any inquiries regarding allotment, procedures
and vacancies in the company. This company also
considers health care insurances, seniority bonus and
re-joining bonus for its officers and crew.
1 Most of the manning companies practice poach-
ing in order to lure officers to the profession. This
is the present name of the game. Demand has dic-
tated this game due to the short supply of quali-
fied and competent officers.
2 The prostitution of the seafarers was also dictated
by the shipping industry especially the ship own-
ers who did not invest for the training of seafarers
are the ones who are now openly offering exorbi-
tant salaries not within the reach of some ship
owners. With this practice professionalism is al-
ready lost in the profession.
3 The companies that invested on the training of the
seafarers are the ones now reaping the fruits of
their investment. they have very high retention
rates of its officers and crew because they have
effectively inculcated in the minds of these sea-
farers the value of loyalty.
The following are the recommendation of the re-
searchers to the different shipping and manning
1 Design a well-defined career development pro-
gram for the officers and crew. See to it that the
company takes care of the career path of each of-
ficer and crew.
2 Provide a program for the promotion of the wel-
fare of the seafarers’ families such as housing
3 Assist the families of the seafarers to be self suf-
ficient through skills training programs such as
entrepreneurship, etc.
Chee How, H. Seafarers training and advisory committee,
wavelink: September 7, 2007)
Magsaysay, D. H. (crew poachers spreading havoc, Lloyd’s
list: September 20, 2006)
Salinas, Carlos C. (Corporate responsibility and obligations to
the seafarer”, a paper delivered at the 8
Asia-Pacific man-
ning and training conference, November 14-15, 2007, Ma-
nila: Philippines).
Suri, S. (A synopsis of current manning situation, strategic di-
rections and emerging markets as a solution to worsening
officers shortage”, a paper delivered at the 8
manning and training conference, November 14-15, 2007,
Manila: Philippines).
Wang, M. (“Shipowners and good crew.” budd group, ivory
coast: December 14, 2006)