The Philippines has ordered its seafarers, who constitute about a third of the world's commercial sailors, to go through anti-piracy training before they will be allowed to board ships, the labor secretary said Monday.
The training, which lasts about eight hours, will be mandatory starting Jan. 15. The measure is a response to a wave of ship hijackings, which remain a serious problem a year after an international naval armada began operating off Somalia to protect shipping lanes.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said sailors will be taught how to use fire hoses and maneuver their vessels to prevent pirates from boarding them. They will also learn how to manage hostage crises if they are taken captive.
"Everyone who will be deployed on board a ship will go through the training," Roque told The Associated Press.
Recruiting agencies will conduct the training and issue a certificate required by the government prior to a seafarer's departure, Roque said.
The program is based on one used by the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners, which operates about 80 percent of the world's tankers.
Sailors will not be armed and training classes will not include the handling of firearms, said Capt. Rex Recomite, a manager at the Norwegian Training Center in the Philippine capital, Manila.
The course will teach sailors how to detect approaching pirates and who to communicate with in case of an attack, he said. The guidelines include telling sailors to go full speed ahead in case the crew detects small vessels nearby, and to avoid sailing near coastlines, Recomite said.
The Philippines supplies about a third of the 1.5 million commercial seafarers worldwide. Somali pirates have kidnapped 470 Filipinos since 2006, and are still holding at least 74 aboard six ships, said Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos.
Pirates operating off the coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea lanes, have hijacked more than 80 ships in the past two years, with many of the seizures earning them multimillion-dollar ransoms. Attackers now hold 14 vessels and close to 300 crew members. Four vessels were seized last week.