…As Comrade Sunday Avoseh Emerges President of Seafarers Branch
By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has raised an alarm over the high cost of obtaining medical certificates for Nigerian seafarers, high cost of issuance of Certificate of Competency (COC) as well as scarcity of discharge booklets.
The union wondered why NIMASA, as a non-revenue agency has decided to allow its staff team up with medical outfits who extort seafarers by commercialising the issuance of medical certificates.
Speaking at the 5th Quadrennial Branch Delegate Conference of the Seamen, NIWA, Water Transporters Branch of the union on Wednesday, its President General, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju also lamented that a large number of able seamen are not employed in spite of having the needed skill nd experience.
Adeyanju said that foreigners have taken over Nigerian waterways, despite the number of competent Nigerian seafarers available to do the jobs.
He said that NIMASA as a regulatory agency has not been able to implement successfully the Cabotage Act and Nigerian seafarers are suffering for this.
While itemising some of the challenges of the union, the MWUN PG said “NIMASA is the regulatory agency that supposed to take care of the welfare of seafarers and dockworkers, they should put machineries in motion to address the high cost of acquiring medical certificates, low enforcement of Cabotage Act, lack of seafarers and dockworkers pool, issuance of SID seafarers”
“Lack of certified training institute for Nigerian seafarers, most of the seafarers travel to Ghana before they could renew their certificates despite universities that ought to be certified in Nigeria.
The revenue that ought to accrue to Nigeria is being diverted to Ghana, Egypt among others”
“Foreigners have taken over the job of Nigerian seafarers on waterways when we have qualified people to do the job, NIMASA should please put machineries in motion to ensure that all foreigners are removed from vessels on our waters and allow Nigerian seafarers take over” he charged NIMASA
Comrade Adeyanju also called on on apex regulatory agency to effect payment of retirement benefit to the affected aged seafarers of defunct National Shipping Shipping Line (NNSL) adding that for several years, they are yet to be paid their entitlements.
Earlier in his welcome address, the outgoing president of the Seamen Branch of MWUN, Comrade Francis Bunu stated that seafarers discharge booklets are very scarce and very expensive.
“Also, the medical certificates are on the high side, the hospitals are now milking the seafarers, we want NIMASA to investigate these hospitals because they are the ones that gave these hospitals licenses to operate and issue us these certificates, but now they are milking us”
Comrade Bunu also said activities of illegal manning agents are not acceptable to the union, according to him, NIMASA licenses these manning agents, but a lot of them are now operating illegally.
Speaking in the same vein, the newly elected President of the Seamen Branch of MWUN, Comrade Sunday Avoseh in a chat with journalists after his victory, said that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed by the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC) is not being implemented and monitored by NIMASA.
Comrade Avoseh stated that his aspirations for Nigerian seafarers as the new president of the branch, is for them to have a fair future compared to their counterparts anywhere in the world.
“We want to lift our seafarers out of the level of being local, to becoming ocean-going.
“Seafarers today are suffering and smiling, as of today, there is no training institution of world standard in this country, this has to change. NIMASA needs to invest in MAN Oron and take the Academy to the level where its certificates would be honored anywhere in the world”
“Renewal of COC and discharge book prices should be lowered. For someone that is yet to get employed and you are asking them to pay exorbitantly to renew their certificates, I don’t its right. NIMASA needs to look into the amount being charged by hospitals for medical certificates”
“The last NJIC agreement with NIMASA is not being monitored and implemented to ensure employers follow it to the letter.
We want the CBA to be on the checklist of NIMASA inspectors, when they go onboard to check document of the vessel, they should also ask of they have the NJIC document in line with the MLC2006” he said
On his part, Director of Maritime Labour Services of NIMASA, Dr Olayemi Abass assured the union that the agency would look at these challenges and proffer solutions one after the other.
Abass was ably represented by Assistant Director Maritime Labour Services, Mr Irekore Raymond.
He assured that the current NJIC for seafarers would elapse by November, and NIMASA is starting a pre-meeting that would metamorphose into the actual negotiation with all necessary stakeholders.
Also speaking at the event, Managing Director of Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA) Mr Oluwadamilola Emmanuel revealed that presently, there is a technical working group comprising of NIMASA, LASWA, NIWA and NPA working on the training and certification of all boat crew on Lagos inland waterways.
Emmanuel who was represented by Mr Ukeme Sunday, assured that, soon, the backlog of uncertified crew members aboard boats would be dully addressed in a positive manner.
He claimed that through the corporation of MWUN, there has been a rapid decrease in the level of boat mishaps within the state.
He assured that the corporation would not seize until the level of mishaps would be eradicated finally.