Fresh indications have emerged that Nigerian seafarers were being swindled out of their pension allowance running into millions of Naira by manning agents who are the middle men between the seafarers and their employer; the shipowners.
The various labour unions in Nigeria; Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association, as well as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) are expected to fight for the seafarers in putting an end to these alleged anomaly but little or nothing has been done in this regard.
These were some of the concerns raised yesterday by Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) at the commemoration of the 2019 day of the seafarers which was held at their Secretariat in Lagos.
The association identified one major reason why people don’t embrace the seafaring profession as lack of pension.
The master mariners stress the need for labour unions and NIMASA to put an end to slave contracts being handed down to Nigerian seafarers, which has discouraged even the female folks from going onboard.
Speaking at the event, President of the Master Mariners, Capt Tajudeen Also noted that the though the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006) has spelt out parameters of what is expected of the shipowners and the seafarers.
According to him, “It recognises the role of manning agents recognised and licensed by the flag administration, to search for crew and supplies for the ship”
“There is contractual agreement between the shipowners and the manning agents, there is also an agreement between the manning agent and the seafarers, but pension is the responsibility of the shipowner”
“The shipowner pays the manning agents but the manning agents take the money but they don’t remit”
“The law says shipowners should submit documents to show that they have deducted pensionSo, on paper, seafarers are entitled to pension, but in practice, they are not given” he said
Also speaking in his presentation, another frontline master mariner, Capt Fatai Balogun lamented that there is no job security for Nigerian seafarers.
He said most of the private shipping companies provide only contractual employment without retirement benefits.
According to him, “Some of us that went through the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) we did not sign a contract with the master or the shipowners, we were absolved as part of their own which encouraged us to stay onboard”
“Today, shipowners are now giving contractual agreement to seafarers, how can a woman do this kind of job.You cannot go to sea on contract and when your contract finishes you are discharged, hire and fire is what they do now”
“It is the labor organisations that should fight for this, and in particular, NIMASA should do something about it. We have been struggling to get that “contract” thing removed, we used to have ‘articles of agreement’ which gives us protection”
“How can you go to sea and you are not pensionable? Who wants to spend 20years at sea and come ashore to start struggling again, people prefer a job that would give them pension. So the solution is for pension to be introduced, let us go back to the old days where seafarers package is done ashore” Capt Balogun said