Stakeholders lament plight of Nigerian seafarers

Several stakeholders including representatives of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA) and the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) yesterday lamented the hardships currently faced by seafarers in the country.

The stakeholders spoke at an event organised by the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) in commemoration of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Day of the Seafarer celebration.

The theme of he event was “Seafarers brought me…”

The National President of NMNOWTSSA, Engr. Matthew Alalde, decried the fact that many seafarers get injured or even died from maritime related accidents and were largely unrecorded or soon forgotten.

He said that efforts must be made to ensure an improvement on the employment conditions for Nigerian seafarers.

He said that seafarers need special protection to help improve their working conditions and ensure their basic human rights.

Alalade, however, noted that the display of professional standards and technical competency were now more recognised to manage today’s ships safely and efficiently.

“That is why the IMO’s revised convention on standards of training, certification and watch keeping for seafarers, which is designed to ensure that human resources available to the shipping industry meets the required standards, is considered to be one of the most important measures to go through the IMO in recent times,” he stated.

He said that the impact of the new demand of competency could be felt in the casualty statistics that have shown a drop and an improved safety.

Alalade also raised the point that in spite of the clamour about capacity-building in different forms, the future demand for seafarers would be driven by the future growth of world trade; the future growth of ship productivity and changes in the required levels of manning to comply with national and international conventions among others demands.

On his part, a mariner, Capt. Ben Bekes, called for the nation’s interest to be put first so that the maritime domain would be protected for an ideal environment for operation.

“On the domestication of the IMO Convention, we should take a cue from Singapore and protect our maritime environment for development. We should remember to put Nigeria’s interest first and we should begin to plan with what we have.”

The MARAN President, Bolaji Akinola, said that besides poor remuneration of seafarers,  there is also a lack of  available data of the seafarers in Nigeria, making it difficult to plan.

“Our seafarers are poorly paid, poorly treated and unnecessarily sacrificed and most of them are jobless. We cannot say the number of seafarers in Nigeria and lack of data makes planning difficult,” he said.

Akinola also noted that this condition had made the fight against piracy difficult as many jobless seafarers could easily be lured into sea criminality as a way out of their plight.

He urged the government to acquire vessels to enable cadets get sea-time training for them to measure up to world standards and have wider job opportunities.

“Government should acquire vessels that can train cadets and they should stop paying lip service to the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) “so that indigenous shipping capacity can be developed as it should be.”

The MARAN president also said that government should endeavour to  develop the local maritime training institutions with as much money as it spends on overseas training of cadets.

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