In recognition of the significance of women in seafaring profession, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has fixed the Day of the Seafarers (DotS) 2019 to be celebrated on 25th of June with the team “On board with gender equality”
The 2019 campaign is tagged #Iamonboard”
Since the beginning of June 2019, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has dominated the social media world with #Iamonboard# sometimes even going ahead to get endorsement towards the celebration from female players in the maritime sector.
It is no longer news that Nigerian female seafarers are still among the worst treated in the world.In a male-dominated industry like the seafaring profession, women are forced to work 10 times harder than their male counterparts in order to prove themselves.
In recent past, randy bosses at major shipping companies in Nigeria, especially in Apapa Lagos, have been reported to be demanding sex from female seafarers before offering them employment.
Even onboard vessels, female cadets, engineers have lamented that they are made to work longer and harder than their male colleagues, this is the punishment they get for refusing to date their male boss on-board.
Agreed, female seafarers also have to brace up and realise that the seafaring profession is not a tea party.One major excuse given recently by employers for refusing to employ female seafarers is the scourge of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG)
Apart from this, there are reports that female seafarers complain too much, especially on poor welfare, no special facilities for them on-board, and so on.
Recall that one of Nigeria’s first female captains who has been on the job for more than 20 years, Capt Stella Ebi Oladejobi had said recently that Nigerian female seafarers were not well treated and are still being discriminated against.
She however stressed the need for female mariners to always be ready to go an extra mile and see themselves as men. According to her, female seafarers must first of all have passion for the job and should not expect to always be treated with special favours, just because they are women.
Capt Stella said “How do some of these female mariners want to be treated? Do they really love and want to work this profession not cutting corners because they are females?”
DAILY TREND also recall that the President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) Capt Tajudeen Alao blamed the plight of Nigerian women seafarers on the lack of planning on the part of the Federal Government.
According to the revered Captain, female cadets are being admitted yearly into the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron Akwa Ibom State. Female cadets were also among those sent to study in the Philippines by NIMASA under its controversial National Seafarers Development Program (NSDP)
Capt Alao said that accommodations are not usually provided for female seafarers onboard vessels when they are employed.
According to him “Accommodation for females on board were not considered as constraints when employing these young ladies”
“No provision on old ships at all. Even as a policy now, no provision is made for new ships being built, and you can’t get sea time in the office”
The master mariner called on the IMO and shipowners globally on the need to cover for these accommodation lapses in new ships being built.
Convener of the Concerned Seafarers Forum, Capt Segun Akanbi had said that there are no policies by NIMASA to guard against sexual harassment and gender discrimination of female seafarers.
He said even if there are, some of these policies are just theoretical. There is no implementation.
“NIMASA needs to make it mandatory for companies to employ female seafarers. Provisions should also be made for females on-board”
Also, procedure for reporting, investigating and disciplining must be clearly stated to checkmate sexual harassment. The gap of communication between the seafarers and NIMASA is too wide. They should create a feedback forum with us to identify some problems we are facing so as to create a continuous improvement.
It is disturbing to note that NIMASA has not really done much to assist female seafarers in the face of discrimination and sexual harassment.
Despite the fact that the agency has been inundated by reports of female seafarers turning into hairdressers, tailors, and market women, all because of lack of gender equality in the profession, NIMASA has done little or nothing to salvage the situation.
With the celebration of this years Seafarers day, DAILY TREND believes the time has come for NIMASA to come up with a policy to protect the women folk in the seafaring profession, especially the upcoming ones.
NIMASA needs to move beyond the rhetorics and the #Iamonboard# slogan which has taken over the social media lately.