One programme that is dear to the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency is man power development programme which led to the retention of the National Seafarers Development programme he inherited from the former administration. He has since expanded the programme with the establishment of maritime institutes in four Nigerian Universities, including the University of Lagos, University of Niger Delta and the establishment of a full fledge Maritime University in Delta state which is still under construction. These institutions were established to turn out skilled technical manpower that are in high demand within local and international maritime Labour market. It is of note therefore that besides the desire to flood the local and international maritime labour market with qualified personnel, one of the areas the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has made remarkable impact since, Mr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi became the helmsman of the agency is the generation of more revenue into the federation account. So far, not less than $6 billion is expected to be raked in as foreign exchange from the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), on the long run.
The programme which he inherited is aimed at eliminating dearth of manpower shortage through training of seafarers which are presently in short supply world-wide according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reports. It was gathered that the average age of the Nigerian seafarer today is 65 years as against the global average of 35.
Till date, no fewer than 2000 Nigerians have been sent to foreign maritime institutions under NSDP programme to train as seafarers.
Akpobolokemi once said the agency pursuit of NSDP was to earn foreign exchange for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.
He maintained that Nigeria could actually earn as much as $6 billion annually and vowed to leave no stone unturned, to ensure that Nigeria produces no fewer than 5,000 competent seafarers, who would be able to work on foreign vessels, and earn the desired hard currencies.
His words: “It has been argued that Nigeria loses an estimated $3 billion annually to foreign seafarers. If you add the remuneration of other foreigners in the shipping and logistics chain, we would probably be talking of losing about double this amount”, he observed, that the desire to retain about $6 billions in the country annually could not be under estimated.
“The standard of living will improve considerably with the attendant vices occasioned with unemployment minimized. This can only happen if we have the right professionals to do the job.
“Besides, a lot of foreign income can be earned from seafarers working on foreign flagged vessels. The Asian tigers are a good case in point. Reports have it that out of the over $16 billion remittances into the Philippines by the Overseas Filipino Workers, over $7 billions is generated by Filipino seafarers.
“If the Nigerian seafarers working overseas can attract this much into Nigeria, it will have a positive impact on the nation’s real GDP”.
Continuing he said : “The Philippines have an educational infrastructure of about 90 maritime schools graduating an estimated number of 40, 000 seafarers annually. This explains why 20 percent of global seafarers are from Philippines, translating to about one in every five seafarers aboard a vessel being a Filipino.
“Clearly, the Philippines do not own the most ships but they work aboard the most vessels. This can be replicated in Nigeria as well. If we have all the vessels and do not have the requisite capacity to man them, the sector will still suffer. It is therefore instructive to have the people who will manage our fleet and the sector professionally for the benefit of the country as a first step”.
He said Nigeria has every reason to aim higher than it was presently doing, especially as a nation with a coastline of over 800 kilometres, higher potential for employment generation and wealth creation and a maritime sector which embodies vibrant shipping activities capable of providing the desired push towards meeting national aspirations.
“The NIMASA has put the issue of shipping develop-ment in the country front burner and we are committed to tacking the malaise that has bedeviled the sector. It must be noted that more than 90 percent of both in bound and out bound cargo in Nigeria are executed through shipping, making the sector too important for the continued growth of the economy to be neglected.
The NIMASA boss assured that the agency would put to good use all the maritime endowment, and tasked the Nigerian media to be consistent in setting agenda and in supporting Government where the authorities glaringly deserved it; adding that the agency was currently assisting MAN, Oron to upgrade to a degree awarding institution, with affiliation to the World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden.
Akpobolokemi said he was happy with progress being recorded in through the NSDP, even as he pointed out that while the country nurtures the vision of training 5,000 cadets by the year 2015, the agency was glad that about 2,500 beneficiaries, being the first set of graduates of the programme had already commenced sea training that would lead to the award of certificates of competency.—–International Trade Monitor