By Godfrey Bivbere
FOLLOWING long stay onboard vessels occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic seafarers have turned on themselves.
Deputy President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Comrade Douglas Eromoboh, raised an alarm that two seafarers stabbed themselves onboard a vessel and that all over the oil platforms and rigs, seafarers are now attacking their captains because they want to go home.
Eromobor threatened that the union would be forced to take a drastic action that would lead to shutting down the oil and gas sector because according to him, workers in the upstream sector are not being considered essential by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19.
The unionists demanded that the governors of Lagos and Rivers states must as a matter of urgency call for a meeting with the President General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju on how the seafarers can be given easy evacuation from vessels.
He alleged that the helicopter that is supposed to evacuate seafarers from these oil platforms are now being allowed passage by the Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
“The seafarers are crying that they have overstayed onboard vessels and they want to go home. The international law says that every seafarer should stay onboard vessel for three months or six months latest, but all of them are stuck onboard because of lockdown. They have now started fighting their captains, they are even killing themselves right now. I just got a report where a seafarer stabbed another because he is crazy, they are killing themselves right now onboard” he said.
According to Comrade Eromoboh, crew change is supposed to last between three months and six months, but Federal Government is not putting this into consideration, the government must recognise that seafarers have a special job and are recognised internationally.
“Seafarers are going crazy now, they are becoming crazy and lunatics, for a seafarer to stay six months onboard a vessel, he is no longer normal. If a Navy man stays onboard a vessel for more than four months, there would be mutiny because he is tired and wants to go to his family. We are having seafarers on oil platforms, oil rigs, onboard vessels and so on, but right now, Governor Wike has said that if seafarers are not cleared of the COVID-19 virus, they should not go onboard vessels.
“Right now we are facing a lot of problems because where the crude oil is being refined, where they are loading and offloading, we have seafarers all over. If care is not taken the PTF would cause commotion in this country, nobody is looking at protecting the seafarers and crew exchange.”
“Government cannot keep seafarers onboard vessels for one year or as long as the lockdown would last.
NIMASA that is supposed to regulate the seafarers are not even saying anything about it”
“I will advise the Governor of Lagos State, the PTF and Gov Wike to call the President General of MWUN for a meeting to know how we can put things right, otherwise, we would tell all our members to stop bringing oil to Nigeria and ground the economy”
“The chopper used to carry seafarers onboard their various vessels in Escravos, Calabar, Akwa Ibom and every other area, they use choppers, and the chopper must take off from Air Force Base in Port Harcourt, and now Gov Wike is saying that if you do not obtain your permit, you should not come to Rivers State”
“Rivers State right now is shut down 24hours starting from Thursday, our members are calling us from all over because they can no longer stay onboard, we are going to stage a revolution that the government would not be able to handle”
“Even on NLNG, BONGO and other platforms, everything is now messed up, the crew changes are not being made and management are now threatening to sack workers” Comrade Eromoboh stated