…As Nigeria celebrates Day of the Seafarers***
The Chairman, Seafarers Welfare Board, Otunba Kunle Folarin, on Thursday, urged the federal government to domesticate conventions critical to the success of the maritime domain in the country.
He also urged government agencies, particularly the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to step up the process, at the National Assembly.
Folarin made the call via a virtual dialogue to discuss ‘Seafarers as Key Workers’, in commemoration of seafarers day celebrated every June 25.
He pointed out that there was also a need to tackle the challenges facing seafarers, urging all stakeholders to contribute to their welfare, as they are termed key workers in the economy.
“Seafarers should be happy that they are regarded as key workers in the maritime domain with their contribution to the economy through the hazardous work they do.
“As regards their welfare in a complex situation, there should be windows of opportunities to ensure that seafarers do not suffer, and whoever that wants to go off-board can do so.
“On the security of Seafarers, the Gulf of Guinea is a pandemic area in terms of attack of pirates and so NIMASA should step up the game, increase surveillance so that the region will not be termed endangered zone,” he said.
Folarin said that shipping operates a tripartite platform whereby all parties, the shipowners, seafarers and government must engage with each other to deliver.
In his own contribution, the nation’s foremost shipping mogul, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun stressed the need to further train the Nigerian seafarers so that they would be able to adequately man Nigerian waters.
According to him, much as we want to certify Nigerian seafarers up to global certification, we need to focus on meeting the need in the home trade by ensuring that seafarers man ships at home.
“In maning those ships, they need to be well certified and trained; and NIMASA should visit the maritime academy to understand what happens there,” he said.
Ogbeifun noted, that as a shipowner, to ensure that he meets the needs of seafarers, he places the right structure, systems and processes to update his organisation to meet international standards.
Echoing similar view, Mr Austin Umezurike, an Alumni of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron (AMANO), pointed out on the need to look into maritime education holistically and the current certificate obtained at the academy.
According to him, 40 years into the academy’s existence, it is unbelievable that Seafarers Certificate of Competence (COC) does not meet the minimum standard.
“For a country as big as we are, we are still awarding certificate up to operational level and not management level, and this is very embarrassing.
“Sea time is important for seafarers, but unfortunately, the country does not have vessels, and to acquire such, there is need for inputs from the ministry of transport through the NIMASA’s Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund,” he said.
Umezurike congratulated Seafarers on their day, for all their efforts, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, by ensuring that the economy was moving.
Capt. Tajudeen Alao, President, Masters Mariners Association, said that as regards collective bargaining, there was need to make provisions for extra pay for seafarers during periods of need like the COVID-19 pandemic.
He urged the government to put in place structures that would ensure that seafarers are compensated for their efforts in the global logistics trade.