The Minister of Transportation Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi has called for strict inspections to ensure that the condition of ships and associated equipment comply with national and international guidelines.
He made the call at the Two days Meeting of 11th Port State Control Committee Meeting of the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West & Central Africa region (Abuja MoU) taking place at Eko Hotels Lagos.
Amaechi who is also the Chairman of the event, reminded participants on the achievements recorded so far, saying that “the primary responsibility of the safety of the ship rests with the Crew, Ship owners, managers and Flag States. However, Port State Control acts as an important safety-net to eliminate the operation of sub-standard ships to ensure the needed safety. It is therefore refreshing to note that notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic, our performance as Flag States have been very encouraging.
“We were swift in the declaration of Seafarers as key workers to ensure that the pandemic did not disrupt world shipping. This was further re-echoed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) with respect to the theme for the 2020 Maritime Day celebration “Seafarers: at the core of shipping future”
Amaechi said “certainly, the strict observance of the COVID-19 protocols resulted in fewer number of inspections all over the world.
“However, with the easing of restrictions in most Member States, there is the need to step up the inspections to ensure that the condition of ships and associated equipment comply with national and international guidelines. It is also important that we put in measures to ensure that ships are manned and operated in compliance with set standards and guidelines. In this regard, Member states must prioritize the vaccination of Seafarers, their off/on signings and most especially in the repatriation processes.
“I therefore want to use this opportunity to urge Member States to ensure strict adherence to the declared COVID-19 protocols to protect Port State Control Officers (PSCOs) and Crew of vessels visiting their ports. “
“In the wake of recent calls against corruption in Port State Operations, I wish to emphasize the need for PSCOs to display high and acceptable standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency in the execution of their responsibilities.
“We must be guided by the IMO’s Code of Good Practice for Port State Control Officers and other relevant circulars and Statutory Documents in conducting Inspections within the Framework of the Regional Memoranda of Understanding and Agreement on Port State Control. These circulars are very important and provide guidelines regarding the standards of integrity, professionalism and transparency for regional Port State Control (PSC) regimes. I therefore wish to encourage Member States to empower their PSCOs for the safe conduct of Inspections and to always aim at exceeding the agreed 15% minimum number of foreign vessels that call at our ports.
”According to the IMO, human factor is key to the safety of life on board ships and a contributing factor to most of the casualties in the shipping industry. Maritime safety can be enhanced by strengthening our focus on the human element.
“The wide-ranging scope and importance of the human element makes it a shared responsibility for all players namely; the IMO as the regulatory body, Member States as implementers, Companies as providers of the necessary resources, safety policies and Seafarers as the individuals who physically operate ships.”
Amaechi went further by saying the safety and security of life at sea, protection of the marine environment, and over 80% of the world’s trade depend on professionalism and competence at sea. Hence, we must strive to ensure that the Abuja MoU invests in the vigorous training of our Port State Control Officers and to work to ensure that the inspection regimes are harmonized in the spirit of the MoU.
On Women in Maritime, Amaechi said “we must also encourage our women to explore careers in becoming Port State Control officers and in related fields as women are great agents of change. I therefore wish to use this opportunity to encourage Member States to create avenues for the participation of women as Port State Control Officers. The Secretariat is hereby encouraged to engage IMO, ILO and other international bodies for close liaison and synergy in the organization of training for our PSCOs.”
The Abuja MoU is the legal document under which countries of the region agreed to develop and implement a common mechanism for their respective port state control activities.
The main work of the MoU is the harmonisation of the port state control procedure and practices of all the countries in the region aimed at eliminating the operation of substandard shipping within the region thereby ensuring maritime safety, security, protection of the marine environment from pollution.
It also includes improving the working and living conditions of ship crew, and to facilitate regional cooperation and exchange of information among member States.
Countries whose port state control functions fall within the Abuja MoU include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Cote d’ Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea and Equatorial Guinea.
Others are Liberia, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, and Togo.