Insights into the Global Ferry Industry

  • Post published:24 August 2023

For the very first time, the International Transport Federation organised the Ferry Roundtable to equip and educate its affiliates with new knowledge of the ferry industry so that they can better serve their members.

Some 30 members from counties like New Zealand, Norway, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Senegal, Uruguay, Canada, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore signed up for the two day workshop which took place on 20 and 21 June in Manila, Philippines.

Sister Jacqueline Smith, Maritime Coordinator of ITF, kick started the roundtable by highlighting how important the industry is and how often it has been overlooked by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the port authorities, in terms of safety and its crew working onboard. She pointed out that SOLAS was introduced due to the disastrous accidents of the MV “Titanic”; there were similar incidents like “Herald of Free Enterprise” and “Scandinavian star” where lives of the crew, passengers and properties were put at risk due to poor management decisions and weak government interventions.

In his sharing, Brother Generick Morales from Associated Philippines Seafarers’ Union (APSU) gave the delegates an overview of the Philippine Ferry Industry; pointing out the different types of ferries; and the vital role they play in transporting the local passengers to the 7,000+ islands as the only mode of transport between the islands. He also touched on how the Union and the Marine Industry Authority (MARINA) work on transforming the industry and improving the working and safety conditions, pay and protection for their local ferry workers.

Brother Danny McGowan from Nautilus International (NI) presented the case of P&O Ferries incidents, where the management unilaterally, without consultation nor warning to the Union or workers, terminated their employment within 24 hours. The unions, in return, conducted industrial actions to send a strong message to the British government and public that stronger labor laws are needed to protect workers in the ferry sector.

The Roundtable participants were grouped into 4 teams, and guided by experienced facilitators from ITF, to delve into topics such as Negotiations, Grievance Handling, Minimum Safe Manning and Communications. The small group sessions, which featured role playing, brought the knowledge gleaned from the speakers’ presentations to a practical and applicable learning experience for the union leaders.

One of the highlights of the roundtable was the Plenary, where after each Panelist’s presentation, the attendees were encouraged to raise questions and share their views on the different ferry issues, to garner the expert’s perspectives on the matter.

“The overall journey has been fruitful where I get to learn more about the Ferry industry globally, from Ferries running the Dover Straits between the European countries to the thousands of Islands like in Indonesia and our host country the Philippines. In the words of Dr Conrad from AMOSUP, “We have about 7,000 plus islands, depending if its high tide or low tide”. – SMOU Senior Industrial Relations Officer Kelvin Lin