April 18, 2024

Maritime workers fume over ‘FG’s unholy romance’ with IOCs

Maritime workers fume over ‘FG’s unholy romance’ with IOCs

By Victor AhiumaYoung

THERE are strong indications of a looming fresh round of industrial unrest in the nation’s Maritime sector over the lingering dispute between the Maritime Workers of Nigeria, MWUN, and the International Oil Companies, IOCs. MWUN and the IOCs have been at loggerheads over the latter’s alleged refusal to implement the “Marine Notice 106 of 2014.”    

The government Marine Notice 106 applies to all companies and persons engaged in Stevedoring work, including Dock Labour Employers and Private Operators of any work location including Ports, Jetties, Onshore or Offshore Oil and Gas or Bonded Terminals, Inland Container Depots, ICDs, off Dock Terminal, Dry Ports and platforms.

MWUN has accused the IOCs of breaching the laws in Nigeria especially the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NlMASA, Act, 2007, a Government Marine Notice No. 106, 2014 issued to stakeholders in the sector.

Marine Notice 106

The Government Marine Notice 106 mandated all companies and persons engaged in stevedoring work including Dock Labour Employer and Private Operators of any work location including Ports, Jetties, Onshore or Offshore Oil and Gas or Bonded Terminals, Inland Container Depots, lCDs, off Dock Terminal, Dry Ports and Platforms to engage stevedoring companies and workers to carry out the operations on their platforms and premises.

The Government Marine Notice 106 is also in tandem with Article 3 (2) of International Labour Organization, ILO, Dock work Convention 137 which Nigeria ratified on the 22nd of March 2004.

In August 2023, there were reports of the deployment of stevedoring contractors to IOCs platforms and private jetties by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.

However, in January 2024, the Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, brokered peace between the leadership of MWUN and IOCs over non-compliance with Stevedoring regulations after the Union declared an indefinite strike across port formations in the country accusing the IOCs and Stevedoring contractors of failure to comply with the extant laws   

About three months later, MWUN raised concerns over the willingness of the government through the NPA to enforce compliance, accusing the NPA of playing to the gallery on the issue.

No information on compliance

In a chat, the President-General of MWUN, Prince Adewale Adeyanju lamented that up till now, Bello-Koko has refused to furnish the union with names of the IOCs that have complied.

According to him: “The Nigerian Ports Authority is in a better position to tell the whole world where we are on the issue of the IOCs. You remember that we signed an agreement with them and that agreement has already elapsed, and we expected them to furnish us with the names of those companies that complied by allowing the stevedores to be in their terminals.

“It is left for the union to wake up again and start revisiting this issue. “The MD of NPA had assured us back then that 70 per cent of the IOCs have complied, but we asked him to give us the names of those that have allowed stevedoring contractors to work in their facilities, but up till now, we don’t know. The way it is now, it is like coded compliance, it is coded.   “To us as Organised Labour, we feel we are being cheated on this issue because they are not carrying us along. We do not even know who and who has been engaged by the IOCs in their terminals.”

Brokered peace

Recall that in the January 2024 brokered peace, Bello-Koko, while appealing to the leadership of MWUN, said: “We will do all it takes to ensure industrial harmony and prevent the shutdown of crucial production platforms of the Oil and Gas and allied industries that maritime workers control. The national economy cannot afford any shutdown at this time.”

The resolutions arrived  at, after a meeting later read: “Though the IOCs have substantially complied with deployment of Labour, the matter of equipment deployment is to be examined within the next three months.

“Meetings shall be facilitated within one week by the relevant regulators and the marginal field operators and all other non-compliant operators to ensure immediate compliance with the Stevedoring Regulations and granting of access to appoint Stevedores.

“Full resolutions of all issues relating to compliance and grants of access to work locations to Stevedores by location Operators be sorted out between now and the end of January 2024.

“While these actions are being taken, the earlier communique reached Friday, the 5th of January, 2024 be immediately implemented as a mark of good faith and that based on the above resolutions, the union has decided to lift the impending shutting down of the nation’s seaports.”