…Fake Certificates is Why Most Nigerian Seafarers Dont Have Jobs
By DAPO OLAWUNI
There are fresh indications that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) squandered not less than N12billion on its National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) a program that has failed to address the challenges of Nigerian seafarers getting jobs on foreign going vessels.
Stakeholders have also lamented that out of the N12billion spent by NIMASA on the NSDP program, at least 65% of it had gone into private pockets of individuals called consultants.
The NSDP program has also been described as over-ambitious with too many cadets jostling to get trained.
Raising these concerns at a gathering to commemorate the 2020 World Maritime Day organised by Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) at the weekend, President of the master mariners, Capt Tajudeen Alao said the N12billion, if well utilised could have been used to rebound the ailing Maritime Academy of Nigerian (MAN) in Oron Akwa Ibom State and bring it up to required standard.
The master mariners association is made up of ship masters, most of them with, not less than 40-50 years of international sailing experience.
Speaking, the highly revered Captain said “They took N12billion to train people, 65percent of this money goes to consultants, I believe this money can bring MAN Oron back to standard. We visited schools in Philippines, some of them, we went to their backyard and begged them to arrange accommodation for the cadets, I shed tears”
“We have an over-ambitious programme, there are too many cadets, most of our ships are laid up at abattoirs Port Harcourt, yet we are not looking for how to get these vessels engaged”
“In 1979, we built two dedicated training ships, River Mada and River Andoni, and each of the vessels can take 32 cadets, but what do we have with the NSDP Programme today? we want to train more than 1,000 cadets, we took 2000 cadets to Philippines, this figure was too much, in those days, we were always not more than 36 cadets drawn from 12 states” he said
Meanwhile, a cross section of master mariners present at the function have expressed opinions on why it has proved difficult for some Nigerian seafarers to secure jobs, and why many of their Certificate of Competency (COC) are still being rejected by foreign ship owners.
Capt Alao further gave an insight into why Nigerian COC are not respected and accepted abroad.
According to him, with the dearth of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) training of Nigerian seafarers have suffered a major set back. He clamoured for the government to re-float a national carriar for Nigeria so that seafarers can get required experience.
Capt Alao said “You cannot be on a ship at anchorage and expect to have a foreign going certificate, it is an aberration, you cannot be on a chopper and say you want to go on a Boeing 747, the difference is clear, you must be trained on the right platform”
“We need a nationai carriar to give our people the right platforms to train and handle bigger ships, the international vessel is an asset that cannot just be given to a fisherman” he said
Speaking in the same vein, a former Director of Safety at NIMASA, Capt Adegboyega Olopoenia said that most Nigerian seafarers who do not have jobs today are probably peddling fake certificates.
He said that most Nigerian shipowners would not employ cheap labour, so often times, what the shipowners do is that, before they employ any seafarer, they check with NIMASA to see if the certificate is genuine or fake.
“When you are well trained as a seafarer, you know that you are well trained and competent, you would not accept any slave contract, you know you are made up of”
“If a man with ICAN certificate is not well paid, he takes his certificate and look for job elsewhere.
Those seafarers that are not competent, most shipping companies would not accept them because of NIMASA”
“A lot of the seafarers that have certificates but had no jobs, it means most of them are having fake certificates”
“Even though I left NIMASA 11years ago, you cannot say that the certificate NIMASA is issuing is not up to standard. The IMO has given NIMASA powers to issue certificates to seafarers, unless you found out that the process is flawed” Olopoenia stated.
Capt Olopoenia who is a former President of the master mariners association however acknowledged that fake certificate syndrome is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, and that it is prevalent all over the world, cutting across various professions and works of life.
“All over the world today, not only in maritime, there are fake documents everywhere, two months ago, a country cried out that about 30 percent of their pilots dont have certificates” he said
On his part, National Secretary of Merchant Navy and Water Transporters Senior Staff Association, Comrade John Okpono said the union has taken several effort to ensure that the clause on Nigerian COC; Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) is expunged , adding that this has limited seafarers from getting jobs.
He cautioned that Nigeria cannot have sustainable shipping when the certificate being issued by NIMASA is not respected by foreign countries.
“The foreigners come here and always give Nigerian seafarers a bad name because they dont want to pay them well, they dont want to employ Nigerians”
This is an opportunity for us to rethink.
The shipowners should give Nigerian crew an opportunity, the master mariners with experience should draw a curriculum that would favour Nigerians”
“On the issue of NCV, the merchant navy Union has written several letters, let us collaborate and make Nigerian certificate sellable, every year we celebrate seafarers day, world maritime day and so on, but nothing is happening in Nigeria, the government of the day is doing divide and rule” he said
Comrade Okpono urged master mariners and policy makers to partner with the union in order to address the issue of NCV on Nigerian COC’s.