In a bid to ascertain who wields authority and should be culpable for maritime crimes onboard vessels, Nigerian shipping experts intend to establish a distinction among seafarers.
This came up during a webinar organized by the Mission to Seafarers (MTS) in Lagos yesterday, with the theme “Seafarer welfare: Are we missing the boat?”
Speaking at the virtual meeting, the President of Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA), Mr. Chidi Ilogu (SAN) stressed that there was a need to have this distinction as some seafarers have been held culpable when they couldn’t have asserted any authority in the crimes.
“There needs to be a distinction between who should be responsible for maritime crime onboard ships and who shouldn’t. Not everyone onboard ships should be penalized for crimes onboard the ship,” he said.
Chief Adebayo Sarumi, former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Chairman, MTS Lagos, corroborated this and assured that MTS would work closely with the NMLA to address this as well as other issues concerning seafarers.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive Officer, Starz Group, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun admonished MTS Lagos to address the fears of foreign seafarers, noting that most sailors perceive security challenges and traffic gridlock in Nigeria hence they remain onboard the ships.
“Foreign seafarers are afraid to come onshore in Nigeria because they perceive safety issues and traffic gridlock that may keep them from getting back to the ships on time. These people want to see the artifacts in the country but these fears following the disposition in the international media keep them away. MTS should play the role of giving them confidence via escorts or assistance,” he said.
He also called on the maritime agencies in the country to provide the requisite funds and equipment to assist MTS, even as he said that ship owners in the country should equally make contributions to MTS.
Ogbeifun also encouraged MTS to adjust its functions to suit the modern needs of seafarers, noting that the challenges confronting seafarers today are different from the ones popular when the mission started 60 years ago.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Bashir Jamoh assured that the new Anti-piracy law would quell the menace of piracy on the nation’s waters.
Jamoh, who was represented by the Director, Maritime Labour Services, Mr. Ibrahim Jibril, stressed that the agency is committed to protecting seafarers’ welfare even on occasions when they are being criminalized and imprisoned for issues beyond them.
He noted that there have been instances where seafarers are arrested and detained on the basis that they are accomplice in maritime crimes and without proper investigation, they are detained several months without trial.
“It is unfortunate that the activities of pirates and criminals on our waters greatly affected seafarers over the years and unfortunately nothing has been done about it to the extent that our seafarers are being criminalized or even imprisoned. With the anti-piracy law, there will be succour for seafarers in Nigeria as we’ll be able to address these criminal activities that are happening on our waters properly in the court of law. We believe it is through this medium that the seafarers will be protected,” the NIMASA boss said.