By Kenneth Jukpor
The Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Port State Control for West and Central Africa Region has pledged to eliminate the operation of sub-standard ships to ensure safety in the subregion.
The Chairman of the Abuja MoU, Mr. Kwaku Ofori Asiamah stressed this yesterday while speaking at the opening session of the 11th meeting of Port State Control Committee (PSCC11) in Lagos.
Asiamah, who is also the Ghanian Minister of Transportation, noted that Port State Control (PSC) acts as an important safety-net to eliminate rustbuckets and attain top-notch shipping operations.
Noting the complaints about corruption in PSC operations, he emphasized the need for PSC officials to display high and acceptable standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency in the execution of their responsibilities.
“We must be guided by the IMO’s Code of Good Practice for Port State Control Officers and other relevant circulars and Statutory Documents in conducting inspections within the Framework of the Regional Memoranda of Understanding and Agreement on Port State Control.”
“These circulars are very important and provide guidelines regarding the standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency for regional PSC regimes. I therefore wish to encourage Member States to empower their PSC officials for the safe conduct of inspections and to always aim at exceeding the agreed 15% minimum number of foreign vessels that call at our ports,” he said.
He also noted that the subregional body was swift in the declaration of seafarers as key workers to ensure that the COVID-19 pandemic did not disrupt world shipping in 2020, a gesture that was further reechoed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with respect to the theme for the 2020 Maritime Day celebration “Seafarers: at the core of shipping future”
The Chairman of Abuja MoU also posited that women should be encouraged to explore careers in becoming Port State Control officers, adding that women are great agents of change.
“I wish to use this opportunity to encourage Member States to create avenues for the participation of women as Port State Control Officers. The Secretariat is hereby encouraged to engage IMO, ILO and other international bodies for close liaison and synergy in the organization of training for our PSCOs,” he said.
Meanwhile, he seized the opportunity to thank the immediate past Secretary-General of the Abuja MoU, Barr. (Mrs.) Mfon Usoro for her meritorious service and presented her a plaque.
On his part, the Vice Chairman of the Abuja MoU and Nigerian Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi encouraged more participation by member states in the activities of the subregional body.
“Abuja MoU isn’t tied to one member state. We must all play our roles and meet our expectations in the bid to safeguard the maritime domain. It would take a collective effort of all member states to raise the MoU to an enviable status across the globe,” the Nigerian Minister said.
He also noted that the member nations should invest in the vigorous training of our Port State Control Officers and to work to ensure that the inspection regimes are harmonized in the spirit of the MoU.
While commending member states for their prompt action in declaring seafarers as essential workers amid the lockdowns due to COVID-19 pandemic in 2020; Amaechi urged the nations to constantly uphold the ethics and ideals upon which the MoU was established.
In his welcome address, the acting Secretary-General of the Abuja MoU, Capt. Sunday Umoren lamented the lack of training institutions for PSC officials in the region.
Umoren however, noted that the Abuja MoU has began discussions with some member countries and institutions to address the menace, even as he encouraged member states to develop learning institutions to train PSC officials with skills to meet international best standards.
He stated that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t undermine the activities of PSC inspections, even as the Abuja MoU ensured that the reactions of PSC officials didn’t overburden ships which were already challenged by security and energy.
“Following the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in unit freight cost and general shipping cost resulting from energy challenges and security challenges for ships. However, the Abuja MoU took some measures, such as extension of the notification dates of vessels statutory and training certificates, among others,” Umoren said.