Tales of woes mark 2013 Seafarers’ Day
• Stakeholders lament lack of data on Nigerian seafarers
• Urge NIMASA to purge Nigerian waters of foreign sailors
Maritime stakeholders, who gathered yesterday in Lagos at a forum to mark the 2013 World Seafarers’ Day, copiously bemoaned the dearth of data on Nigerian seafarers, to the extent that the number of sailors the country is not known.
At the event organised by the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) at its International Maritime Press Centre, Apapa, in honour of the unsung seafarers in the country, a seasoned Master Mariner and Managing Director, Dangote Port Operations, Capt Joshua Oyewunmi, lamented the ugly condition of Nigerian seafarers, in spite of their contribution to the country’s economy.
Oyewunmi, who was the event’s Chairman, said that, while in the 60s data on seafarers were intact, it is no longer so today, adding that it is a shame that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has no data on Nigerian seafarers.
“Government has failed woefully, because, as it does not treat seafarers well, and this is extended to authorities of other countries who treat Nigerian seafarers as nobodies. We pay more on vessel charges, but, even after that, we are treated as nobodies, because that is how our government treats us. It was government that wrecked the Nigerian National Shipping Line. It is sad that even up till now there are no vessels to train seafarers.
“The seamen are looked down upon as just drunkards, but we know that we move this economy,” Oyewunmi said at the event, which was emotionally-charged from the accounts of Nigerian seafarers.
Blaming NIMASA for the woes of the indigenous shipping industry, having failed to enforce the Cabotage Act, the seafarers passionately appealed to the Agency to do its works well.
They appealed to NIMASA to rise up to the occasion and purge the nation’s waters of the horde of Ghanaians, Filipinos and other foreign nationals that have flooded the Nigeria coast and have been taking away jobs meant for Nigerian seafarers, as enunciated by the Cabotage Act.
The Chief Executive Officer, African Maritime Consultants, Capt. Solomon Abiodun Omoteso, who was Guest Speaker at the forum, decried the poor welfare of indigenous seafarers, adding, however, that the job must be there in order to talk of welfare.
“The Cabotage Act is a beautiful Act that says every vessel must be pulled by Nigerians, but a waiver clause that enables them to hire expatriate was introduced and the Cabotage went sick. Today, it is waiver upon waiver and the Nigerian seafarers have lost all opportunities to get jobs,” Omoteso said.
Earlier in his welcome address, MARAN President, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, said that the World Seafarers’ Day is set aside by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) recognise the 1.2 million seafarers worldwide.
Akinola noted that despite the fact that the Nigeria’s life is tied to the sea, with over 80 per cent of her income generated from oil exported by sea, Nigerian Government has shown no regard for the seafarers.
“The country is also dependent on imports which come through the sea by effort of seamen. The simple fact that government does not have data on seafarers, is the beginning of our woes and an indictment on our maritime safety administration. It is high time the government woke up to its responsibility and ensure that Nigerian ships have jobs to do in the nation’s waters. Seafarers face so much turbulence in the course of their jobs, and Nigerian seafarers face in addition to hazards, poor remuneration. The seafarers I know worldwide are millionaires, but not in Nigeria. Our seafarers are begging for food. That is even those that have jobs to do,” he said.