April 16, 2024

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We have achieved our Nigerianisation objective at NSML – Ahmed

We have achieved our Nigerianisation objective at NSML - Ahmed

NLNG Shipping and Marine Services Limited (NSML), a subsidiary of Nigeria LNG said it has met its Nigerianisation objective, targeted at ensuring a full complement of Nigerian seafarers to manage and run its vessels.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, NSML, Abdul- Kadir Ahmed who disclosed this during a media parley held recently in Lagos said the 85 percent Nigerianization target of NSML was completed in 2022.

Ahmed, however, noted that considering the international nature of its trade, the company decided to keep 15 percent foreign seafarers so as to align with global standards.

The NSML boss highlighted the company’s efforts in the development of the Nigerian maritime sector especially in the acquisition of more ocean- going vessels to provide more opportunities for Nigerian seafarers.

He also talked about the company’s drive towards ensuring decarbonisation of its shipping operations in line with the net zero objective of both the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Nigeria.

Read the full interview below:

Excerpts:  

What is the number of Nigerian seafarers working onboard your vessels and provision of sea time for cadets of maritime institutions?

The number of seafarers we have is related to the number of vessels we have under our management. There is a maximum number of seafarers per vessel and therefore, we always ensure that we have the seafarers on our book but of course subject to a certain buffer relating to employability, which is the number of vessels we have under our management.

We have approximately 650 seafarers, but we are continuing to diversify and grow the business. We started as purely managing and providing seafarers for the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) LNG fleet but over the years, we have expanded that into managing Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) vessels as well.

We are currently supervising the construction of a new LPG vessel for a third party, a Nigerian entity in South Korea and the expectation and hope is that the vessel will also come under our management and that will also provide opportunities to engage and employ seafarers that will run those vessels. We are engaging with various entities including Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) with regards to the acquisition of vessels. The more we expand that side of our business in terms of numbers of vessels under our management, the more opportunities there would be for Nigerian seafarers to manage those vessels.

We equally as corporate citizens have a Nigerianisation objective, which we have met, which is ensuring that at every time we have a full complement of Nigerians to manage and run our vessels. Because we are international, there will be a need for a bit of cross-fertilization of ideas and therefore we will always have foreign seafarers, but at every time within our books, we will always have 85 percent of our seafarers being Nigerian.

We met that in 2022 and we are continuing to do that and I am sure you have also heard that in March last year, the LPG vessel under our management achieved 100 per cent Nigerianisation on our coastal waters. That is something we are targeting and we will continue to review that.

At every point in time, we maintain a minimum of about 50 and 60 cadets onboard our vessels. Typically, we have partnerships to support the cadets to get their Certificate of Occupancy (CoC) and ensure they are ready for the market. We also provide a pool of cadets and seafarers for our own use. But of course, we can’t absolve everybody, it all depends on the number of vessels. For us, it is giving them the required training so they can build a career in the global shipping and maritime industry.

India and Philippines export seafarers, so giving them the skill set tool that they can work anywhere in the world is really the intent. I know some of the cadets that have passed through us, quite a few are working internationally at the moment and that is the objective, to create that avenue for youths to have the right skills that are applicable anywhere in the world.

Why do Nigerian seafarers still struggle with global acceptance of Certificate of Competence (CoC) issued by NIMASA?

Unfortunately, it’s an ongoing activity with the acceptance of the CoC and I know the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is doing a lot with regards to ensuring the CoCs are accepted internationally. The key element boils down to the comfort that we are able to provide to other regulatory bodies internationally about the standards and a lot of money has been invested in Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron. They have done a lot in upgrading the academy, which is a step in the right direction and I know the NIMASA Director General is also very passionate about pushing that.

For us in NSML, we have always been available and we will continue to support NIMASA with regards to pushing that because it also works in our favour. If the Nigerian CoCs are accepted internationally, it makes life easier for our seafarers to want to renew their CoCs. It also creates a large pool of resources. But there are no shortcuts to it and that is one thing I will always make very clear.

Acceptance of CoCs looks bilateral, but there are some fundamentals towards the bilateral element, which is that the other party must be comfortable that the quality of the CoCs are at the level that is sustainable. The one way we can ensure that is they want to be sure that the processes of assuring quality is standardised and assured by everybody and that is work that is currently ongoing and I am absolutely confident that in a very short while, that would be achieved.

We will continue to support that because it’s in line with our vision and I will also tend to emphasise that supporting the growth and development of the Nigerian maritime industry starts from the fundamentals of building capacity and ensuring competence in capacity.

How many vessels are currently under the management of NSML and what are your catchment areas?

We have 12 vessels under our management. 11 LNG vessels and one LPG vessel currently. Expectations in line with our growth and diversification objective is to grow the number. We started out as an LNG vessels manager, we have now expanded into bringing LPG, we are hopeful that we will expand both the LPG fleet as well as move into oil tankers and products so that we cover the whole gamut of energy vessels under our management.

We are growing that side of the business slowly; it is a deliberate growth so we don’t just over expand beyond capacity. It must be sustainable to build. Our vessels go all over the world. We have vessels who are loading cargoes in North America, delivering it to Europe, we have vessels loading cargoes in Nigeria and delivering it to Europe, South Africa and far East – Japan, China, South Korea, Indian subcontinent, our vessels go everywhere. The one area our vessels don’t go is Russia.

The only way you can have a vessel that is able to trade in all of these areas boils down into the comfort that those areas would have vis-a-vis your operations and that is where competence and flag assurance come into be, because you need to have a flag and capacity of the crew that is assured and people can vouch for.

That is why it is essential that we create and align ourselves to the global standards. We can have a Nigerian standard, but we should make sure it is not below the global standard.

Why are your vessels not registered with the Nigerian flag?

NLNG vessels are registered under a different flag for a number of factors. One is the registry. We have international ocean-going vessels and there has to be that level of comfort and assurance of the registry and acceptance of the registry internationally for a Nigerian flagged vessel to operate and trade openly.

It is a work that is ongoing as well and we are participating in it at NSML and NLNG level, engaging with NIMASA. We are part of that committee that has been set up to review what needs to be done so that the Nigerian flag and registry get to that level of international acceptance and for us it is a win-win situation once that is achieved. It is an ongoing discussion, we are really aligned with the desire and objectives of NIMASA to have that and we will continue to support that because we believe if we can achieve that, it would definitely support the development of the Nigerian maritime sector.

Looking at the shipping decarbonisation objective of the IMO and the timeline to achieve the net-zero target, how would you assess Nigeria’s preparedness to key into the objective?

For the greenhouse gas emission and decarbonisation objective, which are in line with energy transition and climate change, we all have a duty and responsibility to live and utilise the resources in a sustainable manner so we can pass it onto the next generation.

That requires us not to overly pollute and to ensure effective utilisation of the resources. This is where the argument with the discussion around greenhouse gas emission, the impact and decarbonisation come in.

We know that historically, shipping is one of the major emitters of greenhouse gas. There has been an increased focus in terms of cleaning up shipping operations to make it more efficient, to ensure we decarbonise our processes and contribute towards the movement to net zero and that is being driven primarily by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has the regulation that requires a progressive reduction of greenhouse gas emission right down to 2050 where the expectation is net zero. The target is 40 per cent by 2030.

We as NMSL and NLNG subscribe fully to that and we have our own decarbonisation objective as a group as well, to drive the change in terms of our operations so that we achieve that. In NSML we are looking at it from three -fold. The first element is recognition and realisation of the impact of carbon emission into our environment.

From our point of view, it is simply starting from having a baseline assessment of what exactly we are emitting on a case by case and that is we have imbibed. We are two years into it. We have aligned ourselves and developed the mechanism for measurement. So, for every of our ocean-going vessels, in every aspect of our operations, we know exactly how much we are emitting into the environment from our operations. That is the starting point.

The second aspect of it is that once you measure what is next? That is very crucial. It starts from essentially the change in terms of the way we operate, which has been ongoing. Whether it is the change in terms of the kind of fuels we use on our vessels, the way we plan our voyages or the way we ramp up our boilers? So that holistic change in the way you operate contributes to whether it is high or low and that is something we have started doing.

Another aspect is simply looking forward. Just simply using the same equipment, the same vessels can only enable you to reduce, but it won’t push you to net zero. So, there is that focus on technology, retrofitting, new equipment and new vessels and it is something that we are looking at from the Group perspective when we were looking at our fleet renewal activities to see whether the best technologies is out there so that as we continue to renew our fleet, we are not just simply renewing our fleet using the same kind of technology, but we are taking advantage of emerging technologies to either retrofit or acquire new tonnages that are much more efficient so that our operations basically, fully contribute towards the net zero objective both of IMO, Nigeria and NLNG as a group.

Decarbonisation and the regulation are an opportunity, it boils down to competitiveness and relevance. All of us are in this business in pursuit of relevance. So, we do have a responsibility to protect our environment.

The Nigerian maritime industry is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of standards, decarbonisation, development and acceptance of the Nigerian Certificate of Competence (CoC) internationally and that is what we have been working on with NIMASA and others.

In the last six years everything has changed in terms of decarbonisation and if you look at the evolution of different things from even the monitoring leading to the reduction, the new technologies, everything has changed over the last six years.

For some reasons, it has not caught up to Nigeria at all and it is particularly worrisome because if we don’t act – net zero is a worldwide strategy, our entire skills and understanding of things in the industry will be obsolete within the next five to 10 years.

The standards of operations of shipping and maritime are global. There is nothing about creating the Nigerian standard. So, it is important that if we are not going to take the lead, we should not be left behind.

With the NSML clean waterways initiative, where is the challenge of plastic pollution more prevalent and has there been any form of collaboration with any agency to create awareness on the dangers to shipping?

The Clean waterways initiative is something that we at NSML take very seriously. The problem is most prevalent everywhere and that is the major issue. We are sinking under plastic and the problem is that we are oblivious to the danger of what we are dumping and that in essence, is the purpose of the clean water way initiative, to bring to the table and highlight the problem.

Let us all know that the plastic bags and bottle disposal is wrong. Plastic basically never breaks down; it remains in the environment for millions of years. We are seeing the impact both in terms of marine lives and transportation. It is not just a Nigerian problem, it is a global problem. Others are focusing on their own backyard; we need to start focusing on our own.

The whole essence of the clean waterway initiative is to start that discussion and create the awareness across all stakeholders of the menace and impact of plastic and indiscriminate dumping of plastics, not just in our waterways, but because we are a shipping and marine service company, we focus on waterways, but there are other areas as well.

We need to create awareness on the tremendous number of dangers with plastic. We recognise that we need to come together to push for the advocacy to ensure the right rules and regulations of ensuring the production, utilisation and disposal of plastics.

The third element is action. Beyond awareness, advocacy must come with action. This is one area we all have individual and collective responsibility to do our little bit from our house.

The impact of plastic is felt on the operations of marine. If you speak to people operating in our waterways, the tugboats, the little marine crafts, you will hear their plight. The engines are not lasting long enough now because of this.

The whole essence of the clean waterways is to start that discussion and create awareness across all stakeholders on the menace and impact of indiscriminate dumping of plastics in our waterways because we are a shipping and marine service company.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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