Nigerian Seafarers in different professional groups have been tasked to unite and brainstorm, towards a synergy to address basic challenges facing them and hindering their survival, in the maritime industry.
This call was made on Tuesday, Maritime Professionals Forum president, Captain Akanbi Oluwasegun during the commemoration of the 2022 Seafarers’ Day organized by a coalition of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MESAN) and National Association Master Mariners (NAMM), under the aegis of the Joint Body of the Nigerian Seafarers’ Professional Groups, in Lagos.
Captain Akanbi Oluwasegun pointed out that the event came to be, following the coming together of Maritime professionals to address the too many divisions which have made seafarers to be seriously ineffective and less audible to the government.
Akanbi noted that one of the major problems affecting Nigerian seafarers is that there is no central body having a coordination responsibility for seafaring in Nigeria.
He however suggested that a bill for central professional coordination like the UK Merchant Navy Training Board should be enshrined in the Merchant Shipping Act or as a separate Federal Bill to unite all seafarers and address the code of conduct, and etiquette, disciplinary measures, training and other issues for all seafarers.
According to Akanbi, the only way seafarers can have a strong singular voice is when they unite and speak with one voice, saying that in the previous seafarers’ years they (seafarers) have always been guests in their own events.
He lamented that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as a regulatory body has always been inviting seafarers as guests to their own event, adding that seafarers should have a day to discuss their common challenges.
“We are not here to fight anybody, enough of passing blame amongst NIMASA, Shippers Council, or Seafarers.
One of the problems affecting seafarers is that there is no one central body having a coordination responsibility.
We have regulators but there should be coordination.
“If there is a Federal bill uniting everyone like the UK Merchant Navy training board which takes care of the code of conduct, etiquette, disciplinary measures, training and all for seafarers, NIMASA will only come in as examiners and regulators,” he stated.
Akanbi reiterated the need for a central body that will ensure a single uniform for all.
“We don’t even know ourselves but by the time we centralize the ratings, seafarers, Cadets and all, we would all have the same body and headquarters.
This is different from a union.
We are talking about professional coordination.
“We have that in the Merchant Shipping Act for example which is more robust or a different bill.
Although Unionism has a lot of good to play, that does not eradicate the Professional content of a central body that we are lacking.
The Union is being coordinated by Trade Union Congress but Seafarers is bigger than Trade Union.
Unionism is not compulsory.
But when you have a professional body, it is compulsory,” Akanbi explained.
In his own speech, the Secretary-General of Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MESAN), Captain Alfred Oniye, said Nigerian seafarers are profile personalities who contribute immensely to the development of the nation’s economy.
He called on the federal government to enforce the Cabotage Act by stopping foreigners from taking over Nigerian jobs as Nigerian seafarers are not getting jobs.
Oniye made case for Nigerian seafarers who have the academic, professional, and operational qualifications in seafaring to be given positions to head departments in government agencies.
He stated that if the Cabotage law is enforced over 50 per cent of Nigerians will have jobs.
Earlier in his welcome address, Capt. Rotimi Ogunsakin stated that Nigerian seafarers have decided to awake from their slumber by uniting together to identify and address their challenges.
Lamenting that Nigerian certificates are not recognized even in the country, he noted that this has created a platform for foreign dominance on Nigerian seafaring jobs, insisting that there are competent Nigerians who can do the jobs but are limited with their certificates.
He charged the government to finetune and empower Nigerian seafarers and ensure their certificates are recognized in the country to prevent them from going to buy certificates outside Nigeria.
Also speaking, a Master Mariner, Captain Ezekiel Ishola suggested that Nigeria should fashion out ways to implement the wages and salary structures of seafarers as it is done globally.
Ishola was not happy that only a few Nigerians own ships, adding that some even charter ships to lift cargoes.
He lamented that the Nigerian-owned vessels are not being engaged while the running cost for the ships are very high.
He stressed the need to acquire more vessels to provide seatime for Nigerian Cadets and equally develop the economy of the country.