I was appointed Chairman at the Annual General Meeting held in June 2021. Thank you in advance for your support.
More than a year and a half have passed since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, the virus does not seem to be being brought under control any time soon, due to delays in the supply of vaccines and the spread of new variants. The biggest challenge to the shipping industry has been the enormous difficulty in crew change. This has imposed a substantial financial burden on shipowners, and tremendous mental and physical burden on seafarers who are on board beyond their employment contract period. Their suffering is beyond our imagination. This is a humanitarian issue and could affect the safe operations of vessels.
In this situation, we will do our utmost to help resolve issues arising with our member companies and their seafarers. We have arranged charter flights for disembarked Filipino seafarers to return home, and lobbied the Philippine government to reduce port charges for ships calling directly into the Philippines for crew changes. The understanding and cooperation of the relevant industry associations, trade unions and, in some cases, relevant government agencies, is essential to these efforts. We will continue to maintain good communication and exchange necessary information with them.
The pandemic has also affected our activities which comprise two main areas. The first is to negotiate with the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and its affiliated trade unions in the framework of the International Bargaining Forum (IBF), to establish working conditions of foreign seafarers on board FOC ships in the Japanese merchant fleet. The second is to provide training and welfare to foreign seafarers, using the funds that form part of the wage scale agreed in the IBF negotiations.
Regarding the first, the IBF negotiations will finally take place this coming September, after postponements for about a year and a half in total due to the pandemic. We will negotiate the wage increase ratio that will be applied to the latter two years (2021 and 2022) of the four-year (2019 to 2022) IBF-related agreements.
Regarding the second, various training courses are delivered in Manila mainly for Filipino seafarers, who make up about 70 per cent of the foreign seafarers in the Japanese merchant fleet. Maritime education for cadets is also offered in the Philippines at the Maritime Academy of Asia and the Pacific (MAAP), which educates and trains future seafarers for our member companies. Shipboard training using the MAAP training vessel Kapitan Gregorio Oca is also included in their program. The pandemic has hampered the delivery of training and education, but we hope to return to normal as soon as the situation allows.
Our efforts to negotiate amendments to the IBF-related agreements, to provide training and education, and to develop welfare through funds we jointly manage with the unions, are rooted in our desire to ultimately attract talented foreign seafarers to the Japanese merchant fleet. This will ensure continuous safe operation of Japanese merchant vessels.
At the IBF negotiations, we will take the ship owners’ point of view, as well as pay attention to that of foreign seafarers to achieve what will be acceptable for both sides regarding not only wages but also other working conditions. For training and education, we will ensure to deliver them in a fair and effective manner, with the needs of our member companies being reflected. Seafarers’ welfare will also be developed, with the cooperation and understanding of the All Japan Seamen's Union. Through these activities, we would like to continue contributing to the securing of excellent foreign seafarers and the maintenance and strengthening of safe operations of vessels.
While there is no end in sight to the dire situation of the COVID-19, IMMAJ would like to keep responding to the needs of our members in a flexible and speedy manner, based on the principles of transparency and fairness. I would be grateful for your continued understanding, support, and cooperation.
IMMAJ Chairman: Toshihito Inoue