By Kenneth Jukpor
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has been indicted for the discrimination of nation’s Certificates of Competence (CoC) and subsequent poor remuneration of Nigerian seafarers.
Nigerian seafarers have also lambasted the agency for clinging to detrimental clauses in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW).
Speaking with Maritime TV at the weekend, Capt. Ola Alufa blamed NIMASA for its refusal to expunge the clauses in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) STCW, which confine Nigerian seafarers to the nation’s shores with limited CoCs.
He opined that leading seafaring nations like Philippine and Netherlands have written to IMO and obtained approvals to expunge the ‘Near Coastal Voyage’ restrictions on the certification of their seafarers.
Capt. Alufa also lamented that NIMASA is yet to market Nigerian CoCs to the global shipping community to show that seafarers with the certificates underwent training in tandem with global best practices.
Noting that the restriction on the CoCs of Nigerian seafarers has deprived them of opportunities to be recognized globally, he said, “When you issue a Nigerian seafarer ‘Near Coastal Voyage’ and only give ‘Unlimited’ for Officer On Watch (OOW), it is an undue restriction. Nigerian seafarers must be exploited as big seafaring nations like Philippines, Russia and India. These nations make huge revenue from the seafarers. Meanwhile, Nigerian seafarers are given gross tonnage.”
“The agency needs to lift this restriction and the clause responsible for the restrictions. Other countries have expunged this clause and one of those countries is Netherlands. Nigerian seafarers must be exploited everywhere in the world, they must be able work on different vessels.
“Look at Ghanaian seafarers, their certificates are accepted everywhere in the world. As long as this clause remains in Nigeria, the nation would continue to have challenges in placing seafarers onboard vessels and exploiting the enormous potentials in seafaring.”
He noted that this challenge also leads to poor remuneration for Nigerian seafarers as shipowners know that the nation’s certificates aren’t recognized worldwide, hence, they restructure the salaries of Nigerian seafarers which is a negation of the norm across the globe.
To solve the problem, Alfa admonished the Ministry of Transportation to join NIMASA in writing the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) on the need to remove the clause, which impedes the development of the nation’s seafarers.
Having taking the NIMASA’s examination for OOW in 2008 and the shipment test in the United Kingdom in 2012, he observed that both examinations were similar in terms of standards.
“I would commend NIMASA for the standards in terms of the examination, experience and aura because it was of international standard. There were just slight differences between the OOW we did in Nigeria and the shipment in UK. So, why don’t we encourage those with our certificates?” He said.
He, however, commended the federal government and NIMASA for the efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, as seafarers were recognized as essential service providers.
Appealing to NIMASA to provide seatime opportunities for seafarers that graduated from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria and other institutions, he said; “We should eshew the selective system to avail Nigerian seafarers seatime. NIMASA must be able to screen seafarers from other institutions and not continue with this segmented arrangement.”