By Godfrey Bivbere & Ebuka Oko
FOLLOWING the absence of locally owned ships operating in international waters which has affected the sea time training for Nigerian seafarers, the Federal Government has been charged to put policies in place to increase the nation’s ship owning capacity.
Making the call in Lagos, Secretary General, of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, on Port State Control for West and Central African Region, Mfon Ekong Usoro, said the absence of locally owned vessels trading at the international stage has reduced opportunities available to Nigerian seafarers for hands-on experience in the industry.
She said that this has resulted to poor reckoning of the Nigerian seafarers against their contemporaries all over the world when it comes to international shipping.
In a paper presented at a function in Lagos recently with the theme “Examining Government Policies for the Development of Nigeria’s Maritime Industry”, Usoro said despite the fact that Nigerians have the potentials to compete with other countries; it still requires government efforts to make it a reality.
She stated: “With Nigeria’s teeming population estimated at about 190 million and reportedly, the largest youth population in the world, Nigeria could compete with the Philippines in the export of seafarers and maritime labour. But there is a problem. Nigerian seafarers are insignificant in international shipping. Again, it requires a whole of government approach.
“Nigerian government agencies could implement a policy on maritime manpower which will require every company that employs the services of ships to leverage on and insist that such ships must have a certain minimum number of Nigerian ship board officers and crew on board.
“The government agencies could leverage on and insist that ships which trade regularly with us offer berths to our cadets. Nigerian government could on the diplomatic side, have a dedicated team to iron out the diplomatic bottlenecks/recognition issues involved in engagement of foreign seafarers on board ships”.
She also lamented over the scarcity of training vessels for sea training and urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to invest in ship training as it is being done by their counterparts in South Africa.
“We are aware of the scarcity of berths for sea training. NIMASA could invest in a training ship as SAMSA of South Africa has done,” she concluded.