Capt Waredi Eniosuoh is a maritime expert and a former Director of Shipping Development at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)
Apart from being a master mariner, he is also an air pilot.
In this interview with DAPO OLAWUNI, Capt Waredi noted that Nigeria does not have experts that can train seafarers up to foreign going masters and Chief Engineers level
He also lamented that NIMASA lacked professionals, and that when he started closing the gap back then, certain wailers within NIMASA tried to circumvent the progress.
Does Nigeria have what it takes to train seafarers up to world standards?
When it comes to professionals in any society, no country has got it all, but western countries have a way of compensating for that, but in Nigeria here, we dont have that system and this is the problem, this is also one of the reasons why Nigeria cannot develop, why Nigeria has a problem.
Let me give you my personal experience, in year 2000, there was something called Y2K, when they said the computers would roll over and their would be problems, the Australian government felt that their ships may be stranded at sea, and their officers one way or the other may not remember because they have long time studied and they are now working on computers, they may not remember their Astro Navigation knowledge, Astro Navigation is when you use Sun, Moon and so on, taking bearings and putting them all on paper and calculate your position, they did not have somebody is Australia to teach people that old style of navigation.
Fortunately I learnt it, and the knowledge was is still within me, so, out of the blues, I was in my house and I got a call to come and take that particular course part time and deliver lectures on it, the money they were paying me was the highest money I have ever earned in my life till today, they paid me $1000 per day, when I kept training, the students kept writing on how they are so pleased with the course because after I teach you in the class, i take you out to sea for practical from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday, we bring them back to the Australian port without any navigational instruments.
The Australian government later wrote that they cannot lose me, they gave me a job and that was how I became a lecturer in the Australian Maritime College. You can now see how western countries appreciate knowledge.
But when it comes to Nigeria, everything is a job, there is no carrier in Nigeria, so, if you go to a hospital and they dont have a doctor, instead of them to look for a doctor, especially in government, they would ask a nurse to be doing the doctors job, after doing the job years after, the nurse feels that she is better than a doctor, they dont care if people are dying.
Now, relating this to our maritime industry, under the IMO, you cannot examine somebody on what you dont have the qualification to do, for example, I am a ship captain now, I cannot go and examine a medical doctor, so in the same way, if you have to be an examiner in the maritime industry, the requirement is that you must have the top of the certificate of that particular discipline, if you need to have the foreign going certificate, it has different classes, the entry level is OOW (Officer of the Watch) the only person that can examine you is somebody with top of the certificate in that particular discipline or field which is a Mastee Mariner.
The master mariner himself must also have sea going experience into the modern day, such that anybody coming to take the exam does not know more than him, which is why even the examiners suppose to go back to school regularly. So, in Nigeria, we are still far, we are distracted from the industry’s core functions.
NIMASA said it has consultants handling these examination for them
These are people we call non exclusive surveyors, these are old guys who are Master Mariners, my question is; when did these people go to school last, if they are not careful, when a smart cadet who has been on a recently built new ship comes to seat with you, there would be so much arguments because he knows more than you. We have to really improve, No seafarers certificates last more than five years, so these exclusive examiners that do not go to school, who is renewing their certificate? So you can see that it is one blind man giving another blind man a certificate, this is what is happening in our waters, and the International community is seeing all of these things but they dont talk, the only time they would talk is when you bring that Nigerian certificate to them that you want a job, they would tell you they dont have job for you , they have every right to do so because if you push the limit, they would expose the country, this is why NIMASA is not talking, how many times have you seen that NIMASA wrote to Malaysia to ask why they dont give our guys job, if they talk, NIMASA would audited and they would discover that from ground officer up to the DG, they are not qualified.
Why does the certificate NIMASA issue has a clause “Near Coastal Voyage?
The near coastal voyage is there because the seafarers did not study Astro or Offshore Navigation, so they are not allowed to go more than 50miles off the coast because of the navigation instrument, this has happened to me before at sea, and it has happened to me as an air pilot, I remember at one time, I was flying some bunch of passengers from Abuja to Sokoto, I was flying for Virgin Airlines back then, all my screen went blank, remaining only the engine power, so I used my eyes and what I saw on ground to find my way to Sokoto, it is not an emergency, it is what you are trained to do, I landed the passengers and they did not even know that the navigation instrument failed.
The same with ships, there was one time that my navigation instrument failed from Japan, myself and my team were able to take that ship to Singapore only on magnetic compass, so, are Nigerian seafarers trained on these extant situations, because it is still not an emergency, so if we were not trained on that, how do we take that ship from ocean time where the equipment failed to Singapore, if they do not study all these component in Oron, then you have to keep them near the coast, that is where that clause “Near Coastal Voyage ” comes up, it is not about you writing to IMO about the clause, you may write, but IMO would come and check whether you have the syllabus covered.
What do you think can be done to MAN Oron to meet up International standards?
The first thing you have to look into is your academic syllabus and the people delivering the lectures, in Australia even when I was a lecturer, the Australian Maritime Authority comes to audit the schools to check of the syllabus meet the Australian standard, their standard is even higher than the IMO standard because Australia is a very big maritime nation, a continent and an island, the syllabus even covers Ice Navigation which is different from normal navigation.
When we as AMSA surveyors go back to the college, these are the things we check, first is that, what is the qualifications of the persons delivering the lecture, for you to deliver a lecture in navigation, you also must have passed navigation and you must have practice navigation with an Australian Certificate of Competency. The second thing is the marking script, the marking script for a degree is different from a competency based course, in competency based courses, you can get your answer wrong and yet you may still pass, the reason for that is because you might made a mistake in your answer, but if your procedures are correct then you are fine. So we check the examiners papers on how much mark he alots, this is what we call the marking script.
Probably, it is lack of funds that is hindering MAN Oron, they would have upgraded it to deliver…
I dont think it is lack of funds, if it is lack of funds, where are they getting money to erect buildings compared to money to pay the proper persons, it is not lack of funds, it is a misplacement of focus, if you say you are building a world class hospital and you have big buildings, if you dont have world class doctors, just forget it.
What were your other contributions in NIMASA?
We contributed to the Anti Piracy Bill, we were the ones that put it at the National Assembly, the Bill that everybody is now seating down and taking photographs, it was done in our time, it was because of the criminals we were catching, there was no legal platform under which to prosecute them.
When we started arresting the criminals, some of them were getting away under the legal loopholes, this was how we insisted that we must have a piracy bill, the legal adviser to NIMASA then, Barrister Egbadon was the one that wrote the piracy bill that people are now taking photographs as if it was their idea, it was never their idea.
What is your advise for the new NIMASA DG, Dr Jamoh ?
It is very simple, he should find out what NIMASA is designed for as written in the Merchant Shipping Act and the NIMASA Act, his job is defined by these documentation and the Cabotage Act, but out of these three, let me advise him that his priority is Maritime Safety, if he deviates from it, he should just forget it because if there is no safety, there is no business.
There is no maritime administration in the world that is designed for anything else apart from safety, that is why IMO does not get involved in commercial activities, everything they write is about safety.