Nigerian seafarers have raised fresh alarm about upsurge in foreigners invading the waterways and taking over 80% of their jobs, indicating that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) may have abandoned its plan to stop granting of waivers on crewing of vessels.
Part III, section 9-11 of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003 provides for waiver on the requirements for ownership and manning of Cabotage vessels by Nigerians and also building of such vessels in Nigeria, where capacity is lacking.
Recall however that NIMASA Director General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside had in 2019 announced a five-year strategic plan on the cessation of the waiver clause; New Cabotage Compliance Strategy (NCCS) under which certain categories of waivers have been suspended in order to encourage Nigerians.
Speaking with DAILY TREND NEWS, Secretary General of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MESAN) Capt Alfred Oniye described the statement by Dr. Peterside as an ordinary political statement which has not had any effect.
He lamented that presently, eighty percent of seafarers working Nigerian waters are still foreigners. This clearly raises doubts about NIMASA’s claims of providing over 7,000 jobs for Nigerian seafarers.
He said that NIMASA has failed to follow up on implementation of the five years Cabotage Cessation plan it had promised maritime stakeholders.
Speaking, Oniye said “NIMASA is aware of the invasion of foreigners on Nigerian waters, they are the ones issuing them waivers, foreigners cannot operate on Nigerian waters if NIMASA doesn’t give them waivers”
“The waiver gives room for two years stay, but some of these foreign seafarers have been spending between six to ten years on Nigerian waters, this simply means that it has gone beyond waiver, NIMASA is responsible”
“We have been complaining on this trend, the last time I complained about this, Dakuku came on air to say that they would do everything possible to ensure waiver cessation, we did a video back then advising NIMASA to put an end to waiver because it is killing our seafarers”
“The more you grant foreigners waiver, the more you kick our seafarers out of jobs”
“The statement (waiver cessation) from Dakuku is just a political statement, he has not done anything, I stand to be corrected, he said that, just to suit peoples mind, they have not done any follow up on it”
“If you put on your VHF on sea now, eighty percent of the voices you would be hearing are that of foreigners, they even speak in their foreign languages, yet they are on Nigerian waters, so we know ourselves” Capt Oniye said
The merchant seafarer stressed the need for NIMASA to flush out all foreigners doing jobs belonging to Nigerian seafarers and ensure that the Cabotage law is implemented.
He vowed that “A time is coming that any vessel that comes into our waters would be arrested and the foreigners detained. When you push people to the wall, they would have no choice than to implement the laws by themselves, this is the level that we are right now”
Recall that in 2017, NIMASA had issued a Marine Notice on the New Cabotage Compliance Strategy (NCCS),
titled, “Temporary Suspension of Issuance of Waiver on Manning Requirement under the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003.”
It states that the agency shall no longer consider applications for waiver on manning for prescribed categories of officers in vessels engaged in coastal trade.
They include Second Officer, Second Engineer, Second Mate, able seamen, ratings, and stewards. There are few exceptions in the cases of ship captain, chief engineer, chief officer or first mate, as the Act says they shall be considered on merit on application to the Minister of Transportation or Director-General of NIMASA.