By Godfrey Bivbere
Over 24,000 cadets who have graduated from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, MAN, Oron in Akwa Ibom state in the last 16 years have been without the opportunity of completing their sea time training that would have qualified them as seafarers. Graduates from other maritime institutions also swell this number.
Investigations by Vanguard Maritime Report showed that most of these cadets, out of frustration, have engaged themselves in menial jobs to make ends meet while others are said to have allegedly embarked on illegal seafaring activities since they cannot be employed legally onboard vessels.
There were accusations making the rounds recently that most of the pirate attacks on the nation’s waterways were carried out by this category of cadets.
The Rector of the Academy, Commodore Duja Effedua, who resumed duties at the academy last year has indicated that there would be a massive cut in the number of student admissions going forward.
He stated: “We used to admit between 1,200 and 2000 cadets per stream. That won’t happen anymore. In our next admission, we are taking only 88 cadets for the National Diploma level and about 160 for the Higher National Diploma level.”
Speaking with Vanguard Maritime Report on the issue, Vice President of the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, NMNOWTSSA, Shipping Unit, Reginald Onyenobi, expressed worry about the situation of these cadets, stressing the need for the Federal Government to urgently address their needs.
On the part of the Association, he said that they have been engaging various stakeholders ranging from shipping companies, ship owners, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, as well as the National Assembly to help give succour to the cadets.
In his words, “We feel so much for them and we have been doing the much we can. We have been engaging stakeholders, we have also been engaging shipping companies, ship owners, NIMASA and also even the National Assembly.
“We have been doing a lot; probably they cannot give what they do not have. If you want to look at the fact and do not know that we are forgetting the then Nigerian National Shipping Line, the National Carrier, that use to have a training vessel, it is when you have a national carrier that you can have the authority to provide the needed sea time for these cadets,” he pointed out.
Immediate past President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, SOAN, Greg Ogbeifun, had lamented that the country does not have ocean-going vessels to meet the requirements of modern cadet training.
He said though there are modern vessels trading in the Cabotage area in the country NIMASA is refusing to allow the cadets train onboard these ships.
Former Minister of Interior, Emmanuel Ihenacho, also called for aligning of the MAN’s training program with the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, prescribed Standards of Training and Watch-keeping for Seafarers, STWC ‘78, noting that that is the only way for Nigerian cadets to be recognised.
The STWC Basic Safety Training course is the legal minimum requirement for anyone looking for sea-time experience aboard vessels over 24 metres length, including Superyachts and Cruise ships.
However, in a bid to improve the quality of training at MAN, Oron, the rector said that Admission for the 2017/2018 academic session was earlier put on hold due to restructuring and to create a conducive environment for cadets to study.
According to the rector, the new intakes’ admission will be based purely on merit.
He stated: “Gone are those days when cadets are admitted based on affiliations to somebody up there, and at the end of the day, what the academy produces is the quantity and not quality. It is important the academy manages what it can handle.”
He was however silent on the sea time training for graduates from the school over the years.