How carefully a Philippine manning agent does his job on land can have a serious effect on what happens at sea.

Cultural and personal clashes are a constant threat. They can make men miserable and even end careers. Manning agents, at least good ones, can help shipowners avoid them by looking for potential problems, both in cultural differences and in attitudes, before they happen.Take the case of a Filipino sailor who, while working on ship machinery, had a tiny piece of metal break off and fall into his eye, the Rev. Francis Cho of the Seamen's Church Institute of the Port of New York and New Jersey told Filipino officers during a recent visit to the Proof Gallant in New York harbor.

The injury may have been difficult to see without medical equipment, but the man was obviously in distress. His British captain, who had a dim view of Asian labor, accused him of malingering.

The captain delayed seeking medical attention for the seaman for almost a week. Even after treatment, the man's eye was still swollen closed. The captain, cursing, gave the man orders, which he protested. Somehow, a scuffle ensued and the man was ordered off the ship.

When Rev. Cho, who was hoping to mediate, arrived, the seafarer already had been hustled to an airplane bound for the Philippines. Nevertheless, the crew gathered around Rev. Cho, hoping the minister could somehow settle the growing friction between the captain and the seamen.

The captain defended his treatment of the sailor, telling Rev. Cho he understood what he derisively dubbed "the Asian mentality" because he was married, unhappily, to a Japanese woman. Rev. Cho, a Korean-American, challenged him to explain what he meant by "Asian mentality" and advised the captain to set aside his domestic problems and view his crew as professionals. The captain met with the crew and designated one seafarer as his liaison to the crew.

"That was the manning agent's fault," the Proof Gallant's chief engineer, Juanito L. Remaldora Jr., quickly surmised, adding that a Filipino ship officer could have helped the British captain understand his crew. He suggested that cross-cultural sessions would be helpful for all on board a ship that has a multinational crew.