Mr. Adewale Ishola is a former President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM). In this interview he pours out his heart on the several pertinent issues concerning Master Mariners and the maritime terrain at large.
What is the way forward for the maritime industry in Nigeria from the standpoint of a Master Mariner?
Today there are several things needed for the maritime industry to grow and one of the very important aspects that the current administration has put on the front burlier is having a national carrier. Over the years, since the demise of Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) about 20 years ago the training of cadets at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron has been incomplete without having seatime.
Seatime is the practical experience they need to go through before they can succeed in the profession. It was easier during our time and I was privileged to be the first navigation instructor to the first set of cadets from MAN Oron, when they came for their seatime. I was the chief officer at the time. It was easy for the cadets to finish from the academy and go onboard vessels to get seatime.
Nowadays, the ships are no longer available, while the available ships do not work because most of them are at anchorage doing nothing and the result is that cadets cannot learn in such situation. I am happy that the Minister of Transportation has taken keen interest in ensuring that a national carrier comes to fruition and as a stakeholder I’m in full support of what he is doing.
However, it is very important that the project is carried out in a public-private partnership because we must learn from the experience of NNSL which was entirely government owned and controlled by the government. You don’t run a shipping line when you to wait for all decisions to be made in Abuja. It should have a business model.
But we have government owned fleet in Brazil (Petrobras) and Malaysia (PetroNas) which are their versions of NNPC. The process works in these countries and several others, why wouldn’t it work in Nigeria?
I don’t know where things went wrong. The NNPC trained people as master mariners and first class marine engineers and some of them have just retired while most of them left because NNPC was not able to engage them. These are the people who should have managed the shipping arm of NNPC, but something went wrong along the line. NNPC ought to have a tanker sector. Some of the people trained by NNPC were employed in Mobil, Texaco and other top private companies and they were relevant. These were the people that NNPC should have taken advantage of, they trained them and they ought to have engaged them properly.
Look at Alhaji Dangote and his products, as he produces and sells, he is also involved in the distribution and this ensures that he earns more money from his transport sector and this is what NNPC ought to be doing. Why should we be selling our crude oil on F.O.B (Freight On Board) by allowing the buyer to produce the ships while we lose money for freight? Shouldn’t that money have gone into our economy and given us a multiplier effect? We are doing a lot of damage to the economy by not fully harnessing the shipping sector to get all that we could get from it.
Another issue is the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). NIMASA should be properly arranged in such a way that it is not just a money making agency. It should be a regulatory body that should purely regulate. Probably it should be divided into two. One part could play the regulatory role in terms of government inspectorate of shipping and the other part will focus on the commercial aspect. When we mix these functions together, we get the type of problems we are facing now. NIMASA should be rearranged to cater for the regulatory section as well as the commercial shipping sector.
You talked about a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement for a shipping line, please expound on the modalities?
We have a problem especially we exporting items ought of Nigeria. If you don’t find a ship going along West Africa or anywhere you want to export to, it is very expensive to get a slot on any ship to carry your goods for export. So if have a shipping line that can have general cargo, containers or offshore support vessels, then we can do business even within the west and central region in Africa and we will benefit from it. Nigerians who produce things can also easily move their goods as export.
In a recent Marine Technical Summit organized by the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES), several Master Mariners lamented that there has been a drop in the level of discipline and professionalism. Is this also a major setback?
When you have a shipping line in place and you allow the shipping line to be managed by professionals, that professionalism and discipline would come back. The major problem is that people don’t have where they are going to get the practical experience which is going to instill some level of discipline into them.
When we were under NNSL there was discipline and hierarchy. Everyone knew where he or she belonged and you don’t disrespect your seniors. There was an appreciable degree of respect then but today people don’t even know where to go, so who do you want to discipline? I think when we come under one umbrella; we will be able to discipline ourselves.
By Kenneth Jukpor