Miffed at the clear deviation from standard practice and the very real threat to maritime safety and security, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has sounded the alarm of indigenous ship owners allegedly operating with an overwhelming number of seafarers with forged certificates.
There are as many as 1,200 of such fake documents in circulation, according to Nigeria’s apex maritime regulator.
The Executive Director, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development, NIMASA, Capt. Ezekiel Bala Agaba, who revealed the Agency’s angst when he spoke at a forum with stakeholders on maritime safety in Lagos last Thursday, advised vessel owners to ensure that their vessels are properly manned by qualified personnel, so that they do not become wrecks on the nation’s waters.
“We carried out certificate verification, and we found out that about 1,200 certificates forged. If you have 1,200 certificates forged, it means about 120 vessels are floating with forged certificates, and that is to tell you, an indication that the whole of our going seaports are littered with wrecks,” Agaba said.
He warned that the Agency may be forced to publish the names of owners of the forged certificates to serve as deterrent to others.
Agaba said that, forthwith, no certificate will be issued to any vessel that has not undergone inspection by the Agency.
NIMASA, according to him, would soon engage the services of more surveyors to carry boost the Agency’s Investigation Bureau, and enhance its capacity in performing its flag and port state responsibility.
He said that this had become imperative, because of NIMASA’s lack of technical ability to carry out effective investigation on accident and incident on the nation’s coastal waters.
Other stakeholders, who also spoke at the forum, however, posited that NIMASA should not do away with non-exclusive surveyors, but rather check their operations and retain those who are capable of doing the job.
They harped on the need for training and retraining of seafarers by professionals, noting that the task of building adequate capacity should not be left for the government alone, but also for the private sector to partner the government to develop the nation’s shipping industry.
One of the attendees and the Chief Executive Officer, African Maritime Consultants, Capt. Solomon Abiodun Omoteso, said: “I wonder why the Labour Department is the one dealing with the training of cadets and ratings? If we have the Labour Department, we are talking about carrying out the functions of International Labour Organisation, as it relates to seafarers. But what we have been noticing is that if NIMASA have to recruit cadets to train, it is labour that handles it. This is one thing NIMASA has to look into. If we want to start training them, let the professionals that are in charge of training carry out the training requirement before sending them abroad.”