Shipping Agents, MTS Lagos Meet To Improve Seafarers Welfare

Shipping Agents, MTS Lagos Meet To Improve Seafarers Welfare
Shipping agents under the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) berthing committee at Apapa and Tin Can ports in a group photograph with the leadership of Mission to Seafarers (MTS) Lagos, when the shipping agents came  a courtesy visit to the MTS Lagos centre in Apapa,, Friday, Last week.

 The Mission to Seafarers (MTS) Lagos has strengthened its collaboration with shipping agents to attend to the needs of seafarers visiting the nation. This is one of the numerous collaborative efforts of  MTS and stakeholders in the maritime industry to increase the number of seafarers  catered for in Lagos port jurisdiction.

MTS Lagos also appealed to the shipping agents under the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) berthing committee, to advise ship captains to allow MTS ship visiting team to go onboard vessels to offer emotional and other forms of support to seafarers.

Speaking during the visit in Lagos on Friday, Assistant Chaplain of the Mission and a marine engineer, Rev. Emmanuel Ilori described the partnership with shipping agents as strategic even as he noted that International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code brought a new challenge for seafarers getting off ships at ports.

Some of the shipping agents had observed the refusal by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) to issue shore pass to enable seafarers come ashore, and Ilori explained that the policy is as a result of some ISPS Code restrictions.

He, however, assured that the Mission is working with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Immigration and other relevant agencies to address the problem at Lagos ports.

Ilori’s words: “Shore pass came in after the ISPS Code was introduced at ports. The seafarers were actually shortchanged in its implementation in that regard. It’s a problematic issue globally and I believe that as Nigeria has shown intention of going for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Governing Council election in 2025, it will be part of the issues that will be discussed.”

“How do we ensure shore leave for the visiting seafarers? It is just unfair that seafarers will go on three to five voyages and get denied access to leave the ship for a short time. You don’t do that to airline crew, they even give them priority to get out of the plane but that is not the situation with the seafarers. The MTS Lagos centre is a secure environment with perimeter fencing.”

Meanwhile, he appealed to shipping agents to partner with the MTS in the overall interest of the industry and the country, stressing that a better welfare for seafarers in Lagos will enhance the Nigeria’s reputation among the comity of maritime nations.

Earlier, Chaplain of the MTS Lagos, Reverend Francis Bimbo Aduroja, expressed delight at the visit, even as he encouraged shipping agents to see themselves as MTS partners in the strategic role of the mission in bringing smiles to faces of seafarers.

Aduroja opined that the resistance from some ship captains is simply because they are oblivious of the fact that MTS officials come to bless seafarers spiritually and materially, rather than extort them.

“We have a team of trained ship visitors and from time to time we go on board, meet and interact with the seafarers and ask about their well being because we all know what they go through when they are onboard vessels.”

“Some of the agents on board have not been cooperating with us and it is not their fault to the best of our knowledge because we discover that we have some other people who claim to come on board to help seafarers and at the end of the day they are made to pay. But we are out there to give – free of charge and not to take anything from them,” Aduroja said.

He described the MTS centre as home away from home to the seafarers, stressing that centre now has facilities such as swimming pool, games, lounge and an internet centre.

“We are out to make the seafarers happy not to take advantage of them. Any of the seafarers that want to go ashore can also utilize the facility free of charge,” he said.

On his part, the Secretary, Apapa Berthing Committee, Mr. Lucky Egbedi, who spoke on behalf of shipping agents said the visit is to familiarize themselves with activities of the mission so that they know exactly the crew of ships are taking to.

Egbedi, however, pointed out that without shore permit granted to seafarers by immigration, it would be impossible for the crew to leave the ship, asking the mission to help address the concern.

“We want the Mission to speak with the Immigration Service so they can issue shore passes to crew. Before Covid -19, they do give shore pass but that has stopped now. It is the prerogative of the seafarers whether to go ashore or not, but they are been restricted o board the vessels which is not actually good for them.”

“If the Immigration service will relax their shore pass policy, many crew will want to come ashore. If you go on board, sometimes you see crew with mental problem because they have been on board for a very long time with nobody to talk to and they are traumatized,” Egbedi said.

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