IRI helps Filipino sailors meet int’l requirements


HEADQUARTERED just outside Washington DC, the International Registries Inc and its affiliate, a private company regulator on behalf of the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI) in the central Pacific Ocean, has been equipping Filipino sailors with proper documentation in accessible QR code form and training them in view of tightening immigration laws globally. 

Documenting Filipino seafarers and training them for higher skills are among the pre-requisites imposed by the European Maritime Safety Administration (EMSA) in previous years, which almost led to the blacklisting of the country’s 80,000 seamen in 2013. 

But IRI does not cater directly to EMSA although it makes sure to comply with all its safety standards and regulations.

Capt. Robert A. Fay, IRI Senior Vice President for maritime operations, said the Philippine IRI office was set up last year to expedite the documentation of Filipino seafarers—which could have been more costly if they had to keep shuttling their papers to principals abroad for documentation in their host countries. 

It also registers all kinds of seagoing vessels around the world to prevent sea disasters, environmental degradation and maritime piracy.

From just four (including the country manager) staff in its first year, the IRI office in the country has grown to 12 in just a year because of the huge Filipino seamen market that keeps growing by leaps and bounds because Filipino seafarers are most preferred by shippers and shipping companies around the world.

At its first anniversary press conference, IRI—the private company operating as the regulating arm of the government of RMI—said it sees the Philippine office as one of the fastest growing among its over 27 offices located in shipping and financial centers of the world and this is because the Filipino seafarer base is also expanding very fast.

They are only properly documented in their seafarer books which are kept in ship’s vaults but do not get shipping IDs so they can move around in any part of the world, where the ships dock, whereas IRI IDs are recognized in a growing number of countries.

But Leo Bolivar, IRI country manager, said they do not accept documents of individual seafarers but only through accredited crewing agencies and liaison of shipping principals and in batches, which when completed are also picked up by these applicant liaison officers and crewing agents.

Bolivar said his office works closely with agencies like Maritime Industry Authority, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency to verify the veracity of every documentation application. It also abides by regulations of the International Maritime Organization.

“We want to make sure that our documentation and registration are free from any problems and inconvenience, both to us and to the applicant- company or manning agency,” said Fay.



Bolivar said that of the 80,000 seafarers in its international data base and 60,000 and growing have been listed with IRI Philippines in a year. 

Seagoing trade accounts for 80 percent of all goods traded around the world. A third of our seafarer clients are from the Philippines, Fay said.

“We have been processing 600 to 700 documents in the Manila office. Since our procedures are more thorough and our documentation more air-tight, shippers and maritime operators prefer us over our rivals (IRI is the third international register in the world) and we use modern technologies for our systems and final products (IDs with QR codes that can be accessed through smartphones for verification by foreign governments),” said Fay.

Bolivar said the savings of having seafarers registered with IRI amount to $40 per shipment per batch (they only accept in batches) and at 700 documents per week this would reach for the entire industry a saving of $4,000 a week.


Ship registry

With ships and crew calling from port to port, it is difficult to identify the nationality of the ship and its staff unless they are properly documented by recognized international registries. Their registries also identify their rights and obligations to their staff and to the port of call and the governing laws in these states.

RMI—located between Hawaii and the Philippines—is comprised of 1,200 islands and islets of nearly 2 million square kilometers of sea area. Its government was established in 1979 with the signing of its constitution.

IRI (the world’s oldest and most experienced privately maritime regulator) is the third largest register surpassing 138 million gross tons in October 2016. It offers one of the world’s premier registry that is recognized as a modern and efficient flag-state administration, noted for its commitment to maritime safety, security, social responsibility and environmental protection.

IRI registers tank ships, LNG gas carriers, bulk carriers, container ships, offshore drilling, production and service units, passenger vessels (which also has been growing as an industry) and yachts.

It offers regulatory and technical support during the process of documentation and upon registration of the vessels and crew. 

Its registry offices are in three regions: Asia as Region 1; Europe, the Middle East and India in Region2 and the Americas in Region 3. This allows for issues to be resolved and recorded from office to office around the world. 

IRI adheres to its commitments to Coast Guards of Europe, US and Asia under their respective memoranda of understanding (MOUs) as well as to EMSA regulations. IRI has registration offices for vessels in Hongkong, Japan and Korea to register any Philippine vessels since there are not too many shipowners that look for registration right here in the country, Bolivar said.

IRI has agreements under the STCW Convention (or the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers-- an evolving set of standards that affect nearly  (STCW) is an evolving set of standards that affects nearly every aspects of a mariner’s life at sea – with 72 countries.

It will be recalled that in 2013, EMSA almost disqualified the Filipino seafarers which it deemed least qualified for maritime duties because of the inadequate training provided by maritime schools under the supervision of the Commission on Higher Education and the regulatory disarray of the industry between MARINA and Professional Regulations Commission, owing to lack of legislative infrastructure over the industry.