Merchant Sailors

MANILA, October 26, 2008 (AFP) – Amid dire predictions that trade will slow next year due to the global financial crisis, hundreds of Filipino seamen still gather in downtown Manila everyday to scan the positions vacant notices.

Wilfredo Narte, a 66-year-old Filipino sailor, has seen it all before as he walks past a group of recruitment officers offering him up to 8,000 dollars a month to captain a foreign vessel.

Scanning the job notices he carefully chooses one and signs up, content he will sail within the month.

Others like him wait their turn, but with hundreds of job vacancies on foreign ships none of them look worried even as the financial crisis starts to batter economies around the world.

“Crisis after crisis, they still look for Filipino seamen,” says Narte, who has more than 30 years of experience on foreign vessels working his way up from deckhand to captain.

“I have travelled the world and have been on ships from Asia and the Americas to the Middle East,” he says proudly.

Narte, who spends an average of 10 months a year at sea, is one of an estimated 270,000 Filipinos who make up roughly a third of the world’s merchant sailors.

While economists make dire predictions tha