Let me first of all acknowledge the input of the Nigerian Maritime Administration of Safety Agency (NIMASA) towards the Nigerian seafaring profession. We can’t really undermine their efforts so far. But then, there are still some things that need to be worked on. Looking into the sector, I want to lay my emphasis on manning and crewing agencies. There are too many shortfalls in those areas. Personally, I spent three years trying to obtain my Certificate of Competency (CoC) as a third engineer. That is not actually because of the crewing agents but because of delays and the systems that are not in place to enhance effective training of cadets that are trying to transition into being officers. After you’ve gotten your license, you are supposed to proceed to into the profession proper but then you have certain arrangements by some companies through some manning agents where you have things like senior cadets, junior officer, assistant fourth engineer before you actually begin to assume the role of a fourth engineer proper and that is actually five years of your licensed lives wasting away trying to do contracts that actually do not match with what you have been qualified to do. That is actually because of the system that is in place and you can’t question that because you don’t have access to the powers that be. So, I think there is still so much to be done with respect to the crewing of officers. NIMASA should look into the procedures because some of us who are privileged to be sponsored by NIMASA under the NSDP program have been through so many things. We know that some of our colleagues that work on board vessels are not Nigerians and don’t have to face what we go through here in Nigeria as regards payment. There are conventions that stipulate what it means for a seafarer to be well taken care of, that is the maritime labour convention. NIMASA has to look deeply into that convention and improve on the welfare and the training facilities we have because there are so many persons that schooled in MAN Oron and other maritime institutions in Nigeria that have challenges of getting seatime training. You could finish from the academy and you have to wait three years trying to get a placement. We are trusting that we will get the best from NIMASA and other institutions saddled with the responsibility of caring for seafarers as we look forward to seeing in reality a fair future for seafarers.
3rd Engr Samuel Onyemachi
NIMASA has been doing a lot of talking without implementation because I remembered working with a company in Nigeria but the welfare is very poor. Most Nigerian seafarers can’t save enough to upgrade their documents. Seafarers have standard pay internationally but Nigerian seafarers are being shortchanged and that is not nice. There are even some Nigerian companies that prefer to employ foreigners instead. The preferential treatment given to foreigners needs to be looked into because I don’t see any reason why those of us that do not have international licenses are being treated unfairly.
Ensuring a fair future for seafarers is a very long walk. In my own opinion, I know that it is baby steps for NIMASA as every year we come here and talk about having equal opportunities for seafarers both Nigeria and foreign certificate holders. The main challenge is just to have fair and equal opportunities for us all. We should not be discriminated against by the certificates we carry because they are all the same and we are all putting our lives at risk to ensure that global trade is carried on. For NIMASA, I think they are playing a huge role but there is still a lot to be done. They have to work more on implementing the cabotage law to improve better treatment and welfare for Nigerian seafarers.
I am a beneficiary of NIMASA’s training and studies for seafarers and today I will be getting my certificate in third engineer from the administration so I will say they have been doing a great work and I urge them to do better because there are still other cadets that are looking on to them as an administration to do their job. For me, I appreciate their effort and I commend them.