Transport Minister, Idris Umar
By John Iwori
Apparently dissatisfied with the absence of skilled manpower in the maritime sector of the economy, a group of stakeholders have come together to establish a private maritime training centre in the country.
The sector is presently dominated by foreigners as many Nigeria do not have the requisite skills, experience and exposure to take charge of affairs in the highly technical sector.
The school, which is a private initiative of some Nigerians and foreign maritime experts, with special interest in the credibility of seafarers’ certificates in Nigeria, is called Matral Maritime Training Centre (MMTC) and it would be sited at the Cross River State capital, Calabar.
In order to meeting the yawning gap in the capacity development in the maritime sector of the economy, MMTC which would be equipped with training simulator and foreign instructors would be offering International Maritime Organisation (IMO) model courses.
To ensure that students are trained in a conducive environment away from the hustle and bustle of Lagos, MMTC would be situated at the Cross River State Resource Centre, TINAPA.
At a sensitisation forum for the establishment of MMTC at Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, one of the promoters of the school, Chief Adebayo Sarumi, explained that the choice of Calabar for the location of the institution was based on its serenity, security and its natural environment.
Sarumi, who was the former Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said that the school would offer mandatory courses for seafarers in line with IMO existing standard as contained in its international convention on the standards of training, certification and watch keeping for seafarers (STCW 78) as amended few years ago at Manila, Philippines.
STCW 78, which revised edition came into force in January 2012, stipulated the training requirements for would-be seafarers on board ocean-going vessels across the world.
STCW 78 specifically stipulated the mandatory minimum requirements for the certification of masters, chief mates and officers in charge of navigational watches of ships, of 2006 gross tonnage or more, navigational watches and masters of ships of less than 200 gross tonnage and for ratings forming part of the navigational watch.
Sarunmi, who was in the driving seat in the heat of the port reforms which divested the management of NPA from the day-to-day running of the nation’s seaports, also disclosed that courses to be offered at MMTC would undergo accreditation of international classification organisations, including the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS).
He revealed that the management of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safely Agency (NIMASA) has already issued a tentative certificate to kick off.
Also speaking, another promoter of MMTC, Captain Solomon Omotesho stated that the institution would not start any course without the certification from professional bodies in the world.
Continuing, Omotesho who is a Master Mariner and a respected voice in the maritime sector of the economy said: “The school is being sponsored by experience seafarers and retired maritime professionals who are basically concerned about the credibility of seafarers certificates and the dearth of credible seafarers in the country.”
He contended that the promoters of MMTC need encouragement from organisations and government through the donation of training equipment, especially training simulators.
“The plan is to make it an internationally accepted training institution in Nigeria for the country to utilise the vast opportunities available within 900 nautical miles of its coastline. We are going to start the school with foreign instructors, but as time goes on, we shall get some credible Nigerian instructors to take over”, he said.
Speaking at the sensitisation forum which attracted several stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy, Mr. Jones Sanderson of SPP Solutions UK, said that security awareness by crew members is mandatory as this would help reduce the risk of piracy and armed robbery attacks at sea.
"It is only with in-depth knowledge of ship security can there be defence against external invasions,” he said. “Quality training is the key. If you must be good at a thing, quality training is fundamental.”
Thus, the Institute is set to provide qualitative training for its students and ensure that all certifications meet the required international standards.
Rear Admiral Peter Adeniyi stated that MMTC would also courses on Personal Survival Techniques, Fire Prevention and Fighting, Elementary First Aid at sea, Maritime English, Ship Simulator and Bridge Teamwork, to mention a few.
Other stakeholders expressed confidence and hope that MMTC would operate to international standards to break the gap between the supply and demand for quality seafarers in the country.
They contended that MMTC would save for them money, especially hard currencies often expend by sending workers for trainings overseas.
General Manager, Local Content, Shell Petroleum Development Company Limited (SPDC), Mr. Igo Weli, said that the Anglo-Dutch oil giant was interested in the new and emerging institution because of its ability to solve maritime local contempt problem in all the off-shore companies.
“This is important to us because we are talking about content development in Nigeria, we want to be associated with is kind of things. We want to deepen our content development. I see a lot of savings of foreign exchange, employment generation and a host of other benefits from what we are doing today. We are ready to support a venture like this,” he said in assurance to request for free donation of equipment, especially simulator to the school.
Mr. Ken Agbonkhese of Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) said that his company still had vacancies for people to work on board their gas tankers.
According to him, NLNG like Shell, had been spending fortune in terms of hard currency in the training of its seafarers, recruited from Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State overseas.
“We recruit people from the Maritime Academy, Oron, send them to United Kingdom before putting them on board ships. Some of these courses, which are offered in the UK, are now to be offered at MMTC and this will reduce our cost of training, because we will be spending naira.
“We only urge them (the promoters) to quicken the process of accreditation of the courses so that we can send our seafarers there. We send no fewer than 50 candidates overseas every year after recruiting them from Oron.
“We need not fewer than 260 seafarers and we have just about 150. We spend a lot of money to get, even, some courses accredited at Maritime Academy, Oron, yet it is not working. If we get it right here, you will attract our patronage,” he said.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) also spoke in the same vein, saying it was spending huge hard currency in the training of its personnel abroad; hence its full support for the Calabar institution.
NPA General Manager in charge of training, Mrs. Nike Shonaike, assured listeners that as soon as the MMTC starts, the authority would patronise it.