…Union Says 70% of Nigerian Seafarers Dont Have Rights
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Three months after the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) issued protocols and guidelines on effective crew change for Nigerian seafarers, fresh indications have emerged that shipowners, especially Nigerian vessels violating the directive.
In an exclusive chat with DAILY TREND NEWS, President of Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association, Eng Bob Youso raised an alarm that seafarers were being sent onboard vessels illegally without observing the mandatory 2-weeks of isolation period.
Eng Youso also revealed that 70% of Nigerian seafarers do not rights because they refused to align with the union, he said this was why many of them are being issued slave contracts.
NIMASA had in a Marine Notice directed that ongoing offshore operations requiring new crew or crew changes from affected countries must ensure that pre-departure tests for COVID-19 are conducted on such persons, and self-isolation procedures for the prescribed period are instituted for new crew/personnel before exposure to other personnel.
Eng Youso however exonerated the multinational shipping companies, saying that many of them have been compliant. He said that all the companies who are currently under the subscription of the union are all complying with the crew change directive.
According to the unionist, most Nigerian shipowners do not want bear the cost of lodging the seafarers in an hotel for the two weeks isolation, therefore, seafarers who have been onshore for several months are being sent onboard illegally to join their colleagues without proper tests.
“The crew change is working, everything has been normalised, the only thing is that on the regulations that they must quarantine for two weeks, many companies are dodging that responsibility because of hotel accommodation for two weeks and other expenses”
“Some of the shipowners are illegally crewing and sending people onboard.
The multinational companies are still following the process if you want to go onboard, they would send you to hotels for isolation for two weeks, from there they would give you certificate, they are really following the due process, they make sure you are Covid-19 free before you are sent onboard”
“But some Nigerian shipowners are not following the due process”
“There are many companies under us that I know, especially the multinational vessels, they are complying and we are monitoring it” he said
Eng Youso however said a major area of contention with the multinational vessels is the payment of offshore leave allowance to the seafarers for the two weeks isolation period.
According to him, the shipowners are refusing to pay the seafarers offshore allowance for those two weeks that they were under isolation, they complained that they are spending too much, these are just the issues we are having.
“Based on this, we can reason with the companies because they are also being affected, this is the area that the union have to come in”
“Many shipowners think that by having the union with them, it is a taboo or that the union would not favour them, but it is not so, the union is supposed to be the mediator or intermediary, when we look at decision of the management, we would be able to interpret it to the seafarers”
“It is when we lobby the seafarers that they would understand, but if there is nobody to represent the seafarers and talk with you, even though your intentions are good, the seafarers would not know that they are good, you can only bring them closer through the union at a round table”
“This is the essence lf the CBA, the document is what will guide us, so that there must be harmony, it is not going to be a slave and master relationship, as a seafarer you supposed to have rights, but 70% of Nigerian seafarers does not have rights because of the way they were employed and because they dont even belong to the union, this is why they most times treated anyhow”
“These are the things I have come to change in the industry” he said
The Merchant Navy President solicited the support of the Nigerian seafarers, saying that presently, most of them are not corporating, they think the union is all about collecting dues from them.
He assured that there is an ongoing campaign for Nigerian seafarers to come together under one umbrella.