To explain why Royal Caribbean recently opened a manning office in the Philippines, Richard Brearley first lays out a few numbers.
Just over 16,000 Filipinos are employed by RCL. At any given time, about 5,000 of them are on vacation, leaving an estimated total of 11,000 working, says the cruise line’s vice president of human resources operations.
RCL now employs more than 60,000 crew members from 124 nationalities – Filipinos are the largest – globally among all six RCL brands.
To meet the crew needs of the nine new ships already on order by the company, it intends to bring the total of Filipinos to as many as 30,000 over the next five years.
So there’s that.
Second, Brearley says, hiring Filipinos is by far the most complex process among all the nationalities, because over time the Philippines government set up requirements meant to protect and collect – protect the 10 million of its citizens working abroad, and collect taxes from them.
The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) was set up in 1982 to oversee employment outside the island nation, and retuned later to tighten worker protections.
“So it’s got a very robust process on how it manages documentation, how it manages to give the individual the right credentials, even to the point that at the airport it segments this population into its own separate line,” Brearley says. “It’s a very complicated process to get in and out.”
The bureaucracy of all this, as might be expected, is arresting. Every one of those 10 million Filipinos working abroad has had to deal with a lot of paper. Each form has to be picked up, filled in, signed, walked back to the office it came from, stamped, and followed by another document and another until all the required paperwork is completed. At each of these stops, the applicant has to wait in lines.
“What this translates to for our seafarer is roughly five to six days of each vacation that is lost in this little paper shuffle,” Brearley says, referring to the time spent between a crew member’s contracts, time meant to be spent with family.
So in a joint venture with Philippine Transmarine Carriers, a major crew management company based in Manila, RCL opened a manning agency near the Mall of Asia in the same city early this year to cut through the applicant’s paper chase.
Now, with a visit to the new facility – which includes a playroom for applicants’ children – paperwork needs are handled by RCL on RCL’s own time, the documents are moved, if need be, by a courier paid for by the company and “five days of that experience are now down to maybe one day, and ideally zero days,” Brearley says. “That’s our target.”
With hundreds of thousands of people visiting the Mall of Asia daily, the manning office is also ideally situated for recruitment of new crew, Brearley adds, and their training is part of future plans.