By DAPO OLAWUNI
Captain Ogunsakin Rotimi Williams is a seasoned sailor who has experience spanning over thirty years in seafaring business. He is from Ondo State, Western Nigeria.
He started seafaring as a young man out of secondary school, he has since grew in the business, and he is commanding many large vessels today. At the celebration of the IMO International Seafarers Day 2023 in Lagos, Capt Ogunsakin in this interview condemned the discrimination against the Certificate of Competency (COC) being issued by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by shipping companies and shipowners.
According to him, the COC is very acceptable, but it is being rejected in Nigeria in order to allow foreigners take over the jobs meant for Nigerians.
He said most shipowners and Seafarers consider NIMASA COC as local because of the Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) written on it, hence they shop for international COC’s.
QUESTION: Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Captain Ogunsakin Rotimi William. I am the chairman organizing committee of this year 2023 day of the seafarers celebration organized by the Joint Body of the Nigerian Seafarers Professional Groups.
QUESTION: From your experience, how far have Nigeria gone in resolving seafarers challenges onboard ships?
I have sailed on different categories of ship in Nigeria, and few outside Nigeria. I spend most of my time here in Nigeria, so I know the history almost more that anybody else. Presently, I am still sailing, even tomorrow I am resuming on a very big ship, I have been home for some time now.
The problem is so complicated today because we lack the political will to solve them. The major problem is that Nigerian seafarers suddenly do not have jobs again, Nigeria suddenly do not have ships again, I can tell you, I have been over 30 years in the sea business, I can tell you owners of ships, Ladoja, and so many others.
Besides that, we have National Shipping Line, we have Yinka Folawiyo, Binta Yaradua, we have Greener Lines, and so on. These are foreign going ships that were carrying containers outside Nigeria, flying Nigerian flag all over the world, but today we don’t have them.
All those containers you see at the Tin Can Island and Apapa port, killing people on our roads, none of them were brought-in by our ships, we don’t have ships, so, instead of the maritime to be a source of revenue Nigerian citizen and to our economy, it has become a drain pipe, it is draining our economy.
Today, about 70% of vessels operating in Nigeria are owned by foreigners, and when you pay, you pay to them in their country, the money stays there, they only pay small to some little labourers around here. Then, when you come to the seafaring where I am now, the seafaring has been very blossom, there was a time they will be begging you with jobs, they will tell you; Captain please, you are the one that we want! but now, even when you get the job, there is no happiness.
From the students in the maritime schools, their morale is dead, that time when we were in school, we were also eager and praying for our course to be completed so that we can go out and work, we are already assured that we are going to get something doing, but now, the students in the school are demoralized.
In fact, that is why we created all this avenue, we created football, we created everything to make them happy, because we want to reactivate them, because when they are happy we can be able to correct them.
QUESTION: How would you rate NIMASA in all of these?
I will not say NIMASA are not doing well, I will say they are doing well, but not in the direction that they can help the seafarers. Now, the NSDP (National Seafarers Development Program) is a very laudable program, but they should have sat down well and plan it. How can we use it to benefit the citizens of Nigeria? to benefit the seafarers? to be a source of income? After spending $100,000, you should be able to recoup $400,000 into the country in the nearest future.
As it is today, have you ever heard anybody say we lack cadets? What we lack now is Captains.
If we have 20 qualified Captains now, they will get job.
So, what are we supposed to do? Is it not to help the ones who are already Captains, the ones NIMASA has given certificates? The certificate they gave us from the administration of NIMASA, there is nothing wrong with the certificate in the real sense because, I have a friend who is in Canada, one of my friends also came from America, he is in the hall now, he said in Canada, they use the NCV there to work, but no other person can come from any country and work except you register with Canadian authorities. Even if you carry any Certificate from anywhere, you must be under their control, but in Nigeria, they say the NCV is not genuine. They say that the NCV is local, and you should go and get foreign certificate.
By so doing, Nigeria is encouraging foreign Certificates to operate inside their country, it means they are encouraging putting our money out of the country and killing the Cabotage regime.
The Cabotage act, the government is not supporting it to work, because the Cabotage Act says the ship must be built in Nigeria, owned by Nigeria, and manned by Nigerians. This means that, when cargo comes from abroad, if that cargo has to leave Lagos to Warri, it must be on a ship owned by a Nigerian.
QUESTION: What is your appeal to the present administration of President Tinubu?
I want you to help us beg this new government, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on the Students Loan Policy, seafarers need it. Even if not that I am old now, I would have applied, because I don’t know when I will pay, maybe my children will help me pay, because the money to sponsor anybody to Master level is very high. This year, I spent over N3Million to renew my certificate.
When you hear that they are paying seafarers very well, they are not paying us anything.
You just collect your salary and you use everything to renew certificate, and you are not even guaranteed of getting the job back.
So, held us beg the government, let them bring this loan to seafarers, we shall take the loan if they bring it to us.