The Mission to Seafarers Lagos (MTSL) has sought the collaboration of shipping agents to advise ship captains to allow its ship visiting team to go on board vessels and offer emotional as well as welfare support to seafarers on Nigerian waters.
Speaking at a parley with shipping agents under the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) berthing committee in Lagos on Friday, Assistant Chaplain of the Mission and a marine engineer, Rev.Emmanuel Ilori said the ship agents by nature of their job are the first and last set of people the ship captain meets when entrying and leaving a port, hence the need to collaborate with them.
This, he said, would facilitate seamless interaction with the seafarers on board vessels providing them with physical, emotional and other support services.
He added that the partnership would also give international seafarers who desire to come ashore the opportunity to visit the MTS centre where they can relax and find comfort after long voyages at sea.
“If you look at our job what we do is to go to the ships. We need to know when the ships are coming and when the ships are leaving so that we can plan our services accordingly. So that’s why the shipping agents are very important. We have specially trained ship visitors to international standards and they operate in nearly over 200 ports that we operate.
“With the ship agents, we can work together to make the lives of seafarers better. This partnership is a significant one in the maritime sector. We have a centre here that is one of the best in the world and in compliance with the ISPS code.
“We need you so that we can demonstrate to the world that we can keep international seafarers safe and the bad story they hear about Nigeria can be dispelled,” Ilori told the visiting shipping agents.
Reacting to concerns raised by the shipping agents over refusal by the immigration service to issue shore pass to enable seafarers come ashore, Ilori explained that the policy is as a result of some International Ship Facility Security (ISPS) code restrictions, but assured that the Mission is working with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), immigration and other relevant agencies to address the problem.
“It is a global issue but we are addressing it as an institution locally and we are already getting results. We are working with the Federal government through the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA).
“Shore pass came in after the International Ship and Port Security Code (ISPS). The seafarers were actually shortchanged in its implementation in that regard. The issue is ongoing and I believe as Nigeria has shown intention of going for the IMO council election in 2025, it will be part of the issues that will be discussed. How do we ensure shore leave for the visiting seafarers? It is just unfair that seafarers will go three to five voyages and you deny them access from the ship. You don’t do that to airline crew, they even give them priority to get out of the plane but that is not so with the seafarers. These are some of the things we would be doing and working with the government, immigration and relevant authorities to make sure that shore leave for seafarers is ensured. The MTS centre is a secure environment with perimeter fencing.
“While we are talking to international agents to look at the restrictions of the ISPS code you (shipping agents) have the power to make the lives of seafarers better. We appeal to you to partner with us in the overall interest of the industry and the country, ” Ilori said.
Speaking earlier, Chaplain of the Mission, Francis Bimbo Aduroja, expressed delight at the visit just as he highlighted the role of the mission in bringing smiles to faces of seafarers.
He sought cooperation of the shipping agents to allow the MTS ship visiting team access on board vessels and provide support services to seafarers.
He said the support services provided by the visiting team are without charges unlike other group who claim to offer support to seafarers at a cost.
“We have a team of trained ship visitors and from time to time we go on board, meet and interact with the seafarers and ask about their well being because we all know what they go through when they are onboard vessels.
“Some of the agents on board have not been cooperating with us and it is not their fault to the best of our knowledge because we discover that we have some other people who claim to come on board to help seafarers and at the end of the day they are made to pay. But we are out there to give free of charge and not to take anything from them.
“The MTS centre serve as home away from home to the seafarers. We have facilities such as swimming pool, games, lounge and internet centre. We are out to make the seafarers happy not to take advantage of them. Any of the seafarers that want to go ashore can also utilize the facility free of charge,” he said.
Secretary, Apapa Berthing Committee, Lucky Egbedr, who spoke on behalf of shipping agents said the visit is to familiarize themselves with activities of the mission so that “we know exactly where we are taking our crew to.”
He pointed out that without shore permit granted to seafarers by immigration, it would be impossible for the crew to leave the ship, asking the mission to help address the concern.
“Before the crew can leave the ship, immigration has to issue a shore pass which is like a permit for the crew to come out because they don’t need to come out with a passport because they don’t come with visas. So it’s only the shore pass that can grant them access.
“We want the Mission to speak with immigration so they can issue shore passes to crew. Before Covid -19, they do give shore pass but that has stopped now. It is the prerogative of the seafarers whether to go ashore or not but now they are been restricted on board the vessels which is not actually good for them.
“If the immigration today relax their shore pass policy, many crew will want to come ashore. If you go on board, sometimes you see crew with mental problem because they have been on board for a very long time with nobody to talk to and they are traumatized, ” he said.
Assistant Chaplain, Mission to Seafarers Lagos ( MTSL) and Marine Engr. Rev. Emmanuel Ilori ( 7th from left); Chaplain MTSL, Francis Bimbo Aduroja ( 6th from left), and members of the shipping agents when they paid a visit to the MTS centre in Lagos on Friday.