The Chairman, National Seafarers Welfare Board (NSWB) Nigeria, Otunba Kunle Folarin has unveiled a template that could see about 5000 Nigerian seafarers placed onboard ocean-going vessels annually.
Folarin who is also the Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC), during an interview with MaritimeTV.news posited that this could be attained if the Federal Government could develop an agreement that would see ten Nigerian seafarers placed onboard each vessel that calls at the nation’s ports.
Noting that an average of 5,000 vessels visit Nigerian ports annually, Otunba Folarin stated that 5,000 seafarers could be gainfully employed and positioned to earn foreign currency.
“Nigeria has the potential to attract over 5000 vessels a year calling at our port. Even if only 10 seafarers are manning each vessel and we have only one Nigerian on each of these vessels at Nigerian ports. It means 5000 Nigerian seafarers will be employed. We need a policy that persuades and if not possible, enforces that all ship calling at Nigerian ports should employ at least one or two Nigerians when they call at the ports. This will address the employment issues for seafarers,” the PCC boss said.
While discussing the topic “COVID-19: Addressing the Fears and Challenges of the Nigerian Seafarers”, Folarin stressed that the problems confronting Nigerian seafarers are beyond the pandemic.
His words: “If we are talking of protection for the seafarers, we shouldn’t limit it to COVID-19. We should look at protection in terms of health, in terms of employment opportunity and protection in terms of being able to complete their training. The protection the Nigerian seafarer will be looking for is opportunity for employment. When the seafarer is trained, he needs to be employed in order to practice his trade.”
To achieve seafarers employment, he suggested that Nigeria should go back to the shipping policy which was implemented in the 80s and early 90s as the shipping policy gives the seafarers first right of employment particularly up to the position of Master.
“We need to enforce the employment of seafarers particularly on those ships that trade in Nigeria territorial waters. Cabotage for example has provisions for Manning. Ships in the Cabotage regime must employ Nigerians but that has not been the case. It has been the case of waivers. Waiver of that particular demand is detrimental to protecting the interest and opportunity of employment of seafarers,” he added.
He also appealed to the requisite authorities to ensure that all seafarers and cadets that have undergone academic studies are giving sea time, so that they can become competent and their certification can be used anywhere in the world.
“If Nigerian seafarers have certification that can be used anywhere in the world, it means they are employable anywhere in the world besides Nigeria. This is very important bearing in mind that other countries like the Philippines, Korea, and India virtually monopolize the ratings in the lower cadre of seafaring around the world. There’s still a lot of opportunity, particularly in the officer cadre for seafarers to be employed,” he said.