As the world marks the International Day of the Seafarer today, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has called on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to prevail on shipowners and manning agents to provide palliative to seafarers across Nigeria, as incentives for their extended services on vessels occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is just as the Union in collaboration with the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has flagged off the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE’s) including hand sanitizers, hand gloves, face masks and infrared thermometers to seafarers across Nigerian ports.
The Day of the Seafarer is a day set aside by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to celebrate seafarers for their contributions to international trade. This year’s Seafarer Celebration is tagged, “Seafarers are key workers – essential to shipping, essential to the world.”
Speaking with newsmen at the union’s secretariat in Lagos on Wednesday, President General, MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, said despite the difficult condition brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, seafarers have continued to provide essential service and ensure that economies keep running.
The MWUN boss who applauded the effort of NIMASA designating seafarers as essential duty workers who should be granted free movement despite the travel restriction however warned that the union will not hesitate to embark on industrial strike if indigenous shipowners fail to comply with ITF directive on crew change.
“With the pandemic ravaging the world, many of them (seafarers) are unable to change on vessels and unite with their family but NIMASA came in with Marine Notice that anybody that is onboard for three to six months, when they come down onboard, they have to be quarantine. The marine notice has taken care of all the issues of crew change but we all know that the seafarers have contributed immensely to the growth of the economy of this nation and we are saying they should be given palliative as incentives to cushion the effect of their sufferings on board the vessel.
“We are thereby calling on NIMASA to talk to all employers of seafarers across Nigeria to ensure that palliative is added to the seafarers’ wages. Ours is to protect the interest of our members. A committee set up by MWUN has been going round and meeting with some of the employers of labour to know how far they have gone on the issue of crew change and as members of ITF, whatever directive that is coming from our affiliate, we have to comply with it. If the indigenous shipowners are not complying with the ITF directive on crew change, then we will support our affiliate to go on strike along with them,” he said.
Adeyanju also warned that any attempts by employers to downsize or slash seafarers’ salaries for a situation that is no fault of theirs would be resisted by the union.
On the distribution of the PPEs, Adeyanju said the union will commence with the Lagos ports and thereafter to other ports in Calabar, Port Harcourt, Onne and Warri next week. This, he said, is part of MWUN’s effort at this period to prevent further spread of the coronavirus among seafarers.
The MWUN boss, who expressed appreciation to the ITF for providing counterpart funding for the PPEs, said this is the first time this sort of collaborative activity will be embarked upon by both bodies.