…Calls for Creation of ‘Overseas Maritime Employees Department’
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Even though many port workers are still skeptical of the benefits of the emerging Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy in Nigeria, dockworkers and seafarers under the aegis of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has been assured that the Blue economy concept would lead to more employment and living wages.
Speaking at the launching of a magazine publication of the MWUN: The Maritime Labour Voice, in Lagos on Wednesday, maritime lawyer, Barr Osuala Nwagbara said that the newly established Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy by President Bola Tinubu has huge benefits for port workers.
Avcording to him, a well managed Marine and Blue economy will result in living wage for the maritime and shipping industry workers, as well as social security provision and benefits.
Nwagbara also noted that the blue economy implementation would ensure job availability and job security and also enhanced terminal and retirement benefits
The maritime lawyer said that “Nigeria has a good body of domestic laws to promote and drive her Marine and Blue economy.
“These laws according to him include, but not limited to
(a) The Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003
(b) The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act, 2007
( c) The Merchant Shipping Act, 2007
(d) The Nigerian Ports Authority Act
(e) The National Inland Waterways Authority Act
(f) The Nigerian Shippers Council Act
(g) The Nigerian Oil And Gas Industry Content Act
(h) The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency Act
(i) The Maritime Labour Convention 2006 ( not yet domesticated but having a normative influence on Maritime Labour administration)
(j) The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
“These enumerated laws have Regulations made under them to guide the implementation and enforcement of the parent legislation”
Nwagbara described Seafarers, dock workers and all other maritime employees as a significant force in facilitating ocean trade across borders and within coastal waters.
He said that maritime workers, most especially seafarers are the engine room, the hands and eye with which the vessel owners operate their vessels at sea.
“The maritime workers are the field soldiers that steer the vessel in line with blue economy agenda advocated in the various multilateral treaties superintended by the various international organizations such as the International Maritime Organisation, World Health Organisation, International Labour Organisation, etc
“A functional Marine and Blue economy must ensure proper training and education of the seafarers, dock workers and other maritime employees as part of professional development.
“Proper remuneration, welfare, health and safetyof maritime workers in line with international treaties e.g Maritime Labour Convention 2006, relevant ILO Conventions, World Health Organisation International Medical Guide for Ships, SOLAS (STCW) Convention, and local laws on industrial relations, are essential to boost the working morale of the maritime workers in executing their jobs.
“Adequate training and certification of maritime industry employees will not only meet the Nigerian maritime industry manpower needs, but will also lead to export of maritime industry manpower to other parts of the global community” he said
Nwagbara has however called for an urgent need for the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy to establish Overseas Maritime Employees Department [OMED] within the Ministry to cater for the training and certification needs and exportation of maritime industry manpower from Nigeria to other parts of the world, similar to what obtains in the Philippines.
He said “This will have the effect of not only generating employment for Nigeria`s teeming unemployed youth, but will also generate scarce foreign exchange and in addition promote the status of Nigeria among maritime nations”