The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has accused the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) of paying lip service to the plights of seafarers rather than sanction shipowners who have continuously failed to implement the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which seeks to improve the welfare of seafarers in the country.
President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, who spoke in Lagos on Friday during an event to mark the 2021 International Day of the Seafarer decried the poor working condition of seafarers in the country amidst poor remuneration by shipowners who employ them.
Adeyanju, who was represented by the Deputy President General of the union, Francis Bunu, also lamented the absence of quality training institutions in the country and discrimination of Nigerian seafarers because of the quality of NIMASA issued Certificate of Competency (CoC) which he said lacked global recognition.
“May be out of 100 companies, there are only five that have Collective Bargaining Agreement which the law requires that every shipping company and the workers representative must negotiate to improve the welfare of seafarers but that is not done, rather NIMASA is patronizing those companies.
“Talk is cheap. Every year, we come here on this podium celebrating seafarers and saying all sorts of beautiful things about them but we should be able to ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing. How many companies are here that have the Collective Bargaining Agreement which is NIMASA’s direct responsibility to ensure. How many training facilities do we have that are recognized or can compete with international best global practice? The seafarers are not happy. No facility to train us, no better condition of service that should serve as standard to compete with foreigners.
“We are begging NIMASA to stand up to its responsibility. Enough is enough. If today is seafarer’s day, we should be able to ask ourselves if we are doing the right thing as a country and the answer is no. The seafarers are not placed in their rightful positions. During COVID-19, we were on the sea working for the shipowners and the country, but what do we get in return? Poor salary, no school to train us. No one training institute in Nigeria can compete with foreign institutions including Ghana,” he said.
On his part, the Chairman, Nigerian Seafarers Welfare Board, Otunba Kunle Folarin, said the lack of quality training and Certificate of Competency has been an impediment for Nigerian seafarers to obtain jobs.
“The issue of continuous training is very key because technology is coming into place. If you are a seafarer and your certificate of competence is about 20 years ago, you are no more competent today. You must have continuous training with the new technology that is available. We need to create more training institutions to grow the industry,” he said.
Folarin also noted the need for NIMASA to address the undue differences in wages, saying that Nigerian trained seafarers earned less than their counterparts trained in foreign institutions including those trained in neighboring West African countries.
Folarin who expressed concern over the rising cases of seafarers committing suicides due to depression stated that mental health of seafarers must be given adequate attention adding that manning agents must also improve the recruitment process of seafarers to address situations where many Nigerian seafarers are being criminalized and have ended up in prisons.
Earlier in his address, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, urged NIMASA and shipowners in the industry to ensure improved working and living conditions for seafarers owing to their enormous contributions to global commerce and the economy.
Amaechi said, “As we celebrate the Seafarers’ Day, let us further identify and proffer workable solutions to the issues that will still be relevant to the seafarers after the pandemic, such as fair treatment, living and working conditions of the seafarers. Seafarers contend with perils of the seas and sometimes put their lives on the line just to ensure that goods are safely delivered at designated ports.
He highlighted the harrowing experiences seafarers endure in the course of their job, especially at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic but noted that Nigeria, as a member state of the IMO, was one of the first countries to declare seafarers’ essential workers in order to ease their sufferings.
Amaechi said the recently launched Deep Blue Project is a demonstration of the government’s commitment to ensure that the country’s maritime domain remains safe and secure for seafarers working on ships transiting through its waterways and the Gulf of Guinea region.
Director General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, restated his call on the international community to re-examine the war risk insurance imposed on Nigerian bound ships, saying security conditions in the region are rapidly improving.
“It is significant that critical stakeholders in the world shipping community, like Lloyd’s List, are recognizing Nigeria’s efforts to make the Gulf of Guinea safe and secure for seafarers and ships. But it would be unfair for the world to sidestep such huge investment and commitment to maritime security and retain the high war risk insurance premium on ships bound for our waters,” he said.
He said continuing the war risk insurance would be a disservice to Nigeria and investors in the country’s maritime environment.
25 June of each year is the Day of the Seafarers set aside by the International Maritime Organization to recognize the invaluable contribution seafarers make to international trade and the world economy. The theme for the 2021 Day of Seafarers is, ‘ Fair Future for Seafarers’.