Manning Agency Sets Up ‘Family Hubs’ For Pinoy Sailors; Plans To Hire Female Seafarers

Children of Döhle Group’s seafarer-members enjoy some treats during a family hub set up by the company on Nov. 17, 2023 in their office in Makati City.

As posted by the One News PH on November 28, 2023

Döhle Group and its manning arm, Döhle Seafront say they want to ensure the well-being of their seafearers and their families as well as promote gender equality.

Many Filipinos belong to close-knit families that when problems arise, some become distracted and the quality of their work suffer.

For this reason, the Döhle Seafront, the manning arm of Döhle Group in the country, has taken a step to bring their company closer to the families of their seafarer-members.

Döhle Seafront president Iris Baguilat said since 2021, they have been setting up “family hubs” to serve as localized community units in provinces where many of their seafarers reside.

So far, they have eight hubs namely in Iloilo, Cebu, Bohol, Davao, Batangas, Cavite, Manila and Rizal.

Döhle values families as much as their sailors. Baguilat said, “We believe that strong family units are essential to the well-being of our seafarers. We have always been dedicated to helping our seafarers strengthen their family units true to our commitment of German precision plus Filipino heart.”

“We understand that for the seafarers the family is very important… (It also recognizes that) their number one stressor is the family. If there is a conflict in the family, it also affects their work,” she added.

Since seafarers are aboard ships for long periods of time, ranging around from four to nine months, the distance away from their families could only add to their anxiety.

But through these family hubs, Döhle is able to introduce itself to the family and answer  queries and concerns that they might have about the company, as well as informing them about the health maintenance organization or HMO and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation or (PhilHealth) benefits, which are needed when a family member gets sick.

Establishing a rapport with the family helps ease the worries of their seafarers, Baguilat said, noting that this is especially beneficial to those living in the Visayas and Mindanao, who no longer need to travel to Manila just to get help from the manning agency.

But Baguilat admitted that while their communication lines are open to the families, there are also instances when they are shy or hesitant to make the call.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said they never stopped offering assistance to the families of their seafarers.

Now, with the pandemic restrictions eased, Döhle is considering to establish more family hubs and visit more areas where they have a number of seafarers such as in Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan and Bacolod.

Aside from the family hubs, Döhle has also been holding “Family Day” since 2015.

Last Nov. 17, they held their Family Day at the Döhle office in Makati City that was attended by 80 of their officers and engineers and their family members, including their children.

They partnered with Educhild Philippines, a non-profit organization that is present in 30 countries.

Second mate Sidney Pura, who has been a seafarer for 16 years but has only been with Döhle for one year, said he attended the Family Day with his wife Shirillyn and their three sons.

According to Pura, he and his wife attended a seminar where topics discussed included addressing conflicts in family relationships, such as the three unhealthy “Rs” – resentment, rage and retaliation; and the three healthy “Rs” – reset, responsibility and respect; and healthy living.

The children, on the other hand, were in a separate room nearby, being entertained with games, face painting, and clowns. They were also served snacks.

The families reunited during lunchtime.

Pura said that he was happy to bring his family, who are from Pangasinan, to their office because for the first time “they saw where I report for work every time I have to travel to Manila.”

Since he was still new to the company, he was pleased that there were other participants who had the same questions in his mind and these were immediately answered during the seminar for the parents such about the HMO and retirement.

He also admitted that being a seafarer is tough because he has to be away from his family. But whenever he returns home, he tries to make up for it by going on family vacations, often to Baguio which is close to Pangasinan.

He also said that despite his absence, he has maintained a bond with their sons –  Kirk Lawrence, 15; Melbourne Lawrence, 10; and Axel Lawrence, 6; and do fatherly chores such as feeding them and giving them baths.

Döhle Seafront’s Family Program had won the Heart of OFW’s Company of the Year award at the Asia CEO Awards in 2018. The following year, it received the AREA Investment in People Award in Taipei, Taiwan.

Seawomen soon to be on board?

Meanwhile, Döhle Group and its manning arm Döhle Seafront are planning to open their doors to Filipina seafarers to work onboard their cruise and container ships even if so far, there are only a few applicants.

Johann Diercks, managing director of Germany-based shipping company Döhle Schiffarts-KG, said they are advocating for gender equality in the workplace, and that their group is preparing to introduce female cadets and seafarers to its growing workforce.

“We have always considered having female seafarers, but it takes more than our desire to aptly make this happen. For years, we have been ensuring that when female seafarers board our vessels, our ships are also ready and well-equipped to accommodate them and that their needs are safety met,” Diercks said in a statement dated Nov. 17

In a press conference also on Nov. 17, Diercks noted that there is growing trend for major manning companies to hire female seafarers. “We believe in the capabilities of female seafarers.”

They are exploring this direction because do they want to “tap into a new crew pool that is not currently being utilized properly,” he added.

What is primarily stopping them is the lack of availability of Filipina seafarers. “At the moment what is stopping us from going full throttle is simply the supply,” Diercks bared.

“I think there is much ground work to be done… to attract females into shipping, the seafaring career. The scarcity of supply is the problem at the moment. We have done our homework with regards to our internal processes, standards and guidelines, so we are comfortable with that position,” Diercks said.

They are also interested on having a group of female seafarers onboard the same ship, and not just placing woman aboard. “We do not want to isolate them, we want them to feel secured,” he pointed out.

He explained that at present, there might still be a few women interested in boarding these cargo ships because, “I think we have to be fair, this was not really a career choice or career option for women 10 years ago… This is why, naturally, it has a very slow growth but hopefully it would be exponential, that is why some people take time.”

But the Döhle official admitted that are also “regulatory issues” that they need to address since it is a “change management project” and that their land-based counterpart has to understand the difficulties and challenges that comes with the hiring of female seafarers.