THE ship manning situation has very much eased in the Far East compared with two years ago, but some owners and managers say good quality crews are still in short supply. One of the main reasons increased numbers of Asian crew are on the market is that most of the tonnage sold in recent months was snapped up by Greek owners who are not large-scale employers of Far Eastern crews. The other factor is that over the past two years, owners and managers have gone through an accelerated phase of training, increasing the number of trainees, which is now bearing fruit. According to Orient Ship Manager personnel manager S.O. Lam, the situation has reached the point where ''we can pick and chose''. ''Hongkong owners and managers are not feeling any shortage right now, although there was some shortage two years ago,'' said U.C., Agarwal, fleet manager at Wallem Ship Management. ''Last year we even had difficulty recruiting third officers, but this year the situation is much better,'' said another manager. Some Hongkong managers say the numbers given in a report by the Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO) and International Shipping Federation (ISF) on crew requirements worldwide, released last year, were misleading. The study undertaken in 1991, projected that 40,000 seafarers would need to be trained to meet the requirements on a worldwide basis and suggested putting one trainee on each ship. Some Hongkong managers put two trainees per ship, one on deck and one in the engine room. But one manager pointed out that by putting trainees on the ships would relieve shortages only in lower ranks and not among officers. ''Put one trainee on each ship and you will have 16,000 third officers, but you will have that number of second officers only a year or 18 months later. At this rate shortages in the top ranks will be eased only 10 years from now,'' the manager said. At present Filipinos are the most sought-after crews in Asia, numbering about 136,000, and accounting for about 20 per cent of the world's seafarers. Filipino masters can be hired for as low as US$1,800 to $3,000 a month, while Filipino ratings range from $450 to $1,200. By comparison, an Indian master will cost a minimum of $2,800 for a cargo ship and $3,500 for a tanker. Some Far East managers are outraged when European shipping executives say safety standards were going down because ships were increasingly being manned by Third World crews whose training standards were questionable. ''The whole picture gets distorted when we compare a Filipino master, who is in the international marketplace, and doing the same job that a British master will do for $7,000,'' said one manager. ''If the Filipino master were to ask for $7,000, nobody will hire him. ''It is agreed that at one time European standards were undeniably high because training standards were far superior to what exist now. ''But what is being implied today is that because you are white your standards are good. That is wrong. Training standards in India are as high as obtainable anywhere in the world. It is not acceptable if one were to say today that a British master is superior to an Indian master. ''Nobody will say it openly, but the impression is being given that Indians are not better than the Europeans but are better than the Filipinos.'' Another manager pointed out that of the estimated 3,000 ships managed worldwide, 2,700 are being managed out of the Far East. ''As such, the probability of accidents is more in the Far East than in Europe. If five ships managed from the Far East get damaged, everybody talks of numbers, nobody talks about the percentages.'' He said most of the manning was being done from the Far East now and the number of Asian crews would increase. ''If you are using the same human resources, it does not matter whether you are managing a ship from the Far East or from Europe. It no longer matters if the manager is European, Indian or Pakistani,'' the manager said.