Eromosele Abiodun writes that the Nigeria Ports Authority’s simulation centre inaugurated last week will guarantee capacity building and save capital flight hitherto spent abroad for training of pilots
The Nigerian maritime education and training system was established in order to provide training for all levels of manpower for the maritime sector of the Nigerian economy. However, due to new and changing technology and international conventions, the system encountered a host of problems. For instance, it does not have sufficient and adequately qualified manpower, facilities and equipment to train modern day seafarers.
Realising the important role of shipping in the development of a nation’s economy, the Nigerian government in 1959, established a shipping company with six old ships. These were later increased in number and tonnage to enable Nigeria carry a fair share of the total sea-borne trade generated along the West and Central African sub-region at that time, of which over 70 per cent originated from Nigeria.
However, there was maritime manpower shortage at this time: the newly established shipping company and other maritime institutions such as ship, cargo surveying, clearing and forwarding agencies were all virtually run by expatriates. In view of this, the Federal Government of Nigeria decided to establish a nautical school to train all levels of manpower for the Nigerian maritime industry. Accordingly, in 1968 it commissioned an International Maritime Organisation (IMO) body of experts to do a feasibility study for this purpose. In 1972, an internal body was appointed to follow up the first study. Finally, in 1976, the third and final IMO sponsored body of experts were engaged to do the same feasibility study before the government gave the green light for the Nautical College of Nigeria to be established in 1977.
Apart from problems that face maritime education and training system in Nigeria as a result of new and changing technology and international legislation, there are also additional challenges of a more general nature. One of the major problems plaguing maritime education and training system in Nigeria is lack of maritime industry’s support. Experts believe the major problem of nautical education in developing countries is that those who provide funds for training are not always the same consumers of the products. Until recently, pilots were trained abroad because of lack of simulation technology.
Although use of simulation technology for training purposes has been a feature of several industries especially the aircraft industry for many years, it is still relatively new in the maritime and related industries. The first attempt at ship bridge simulation appeared in Sweden and the Netherlands in the late 60s, being initially intended for research work only. It was not until 1976 that the first simulator designed with the specific aim of training seafarers was installed at La Guardia Marine Terminal, New York.
The basis for using simulators in education and training, according to maritime expert, Lucky Amiwero, is captured in the old adage, ‘Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” According to Amiwero, the role of simulation is to reproduce practical situations so that experience can be gained in a selective manner under controlled and repeatable conditions.
“This means that for participants the result of simulation should not just be the cognitive perception but also experience. Taking this same line of thought, another maritime expert, Akintunde Jonson, defined simulation as an untaught event in which the participants have roles and are required to accept the responsibilities and duties of professionals.
“Central to simulation therefore is neither the hardware nor software but the participants. Simulators are a proven tool in providing a highly realistic training environment for all mariners, and have the potential to improve training efficiency in many different tasks. They can also provide for the assessment of knowledge and skills and for their transfer to shipboard practice because they enable maritime academies to offer close-to-reality training for important relatively complex and potentially dangerous tasks without any physical effect on ships and trainers, “he stated.
NPA Takes the Initiative
In a bid to ameliorate the challenges in maritime education and training system in Nigeria, buoy local content in the maritime sector, guarantee capacity building and save the multi-million-naira capital flight hitherto spent abroad, NPA last week, inaugurated its marine and harbour ultra-modern simulation centre at Dockyard, Apapa, Lagos state.
Speaking at the inauguration of the training facility, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Ameachi said the NPA’s simulation centre will save the federal government foreign exchange that would have been used in training personnel abroad, assuring that that government is desirous of encouraging local content in other to grow the economy.
Amaechi stated that the deployment of technology in enhancing the capacity of workers has vast bearing on the growth and competitiveness of organisations and systems.
“The function specific enablement and training that this simulation centre will afford our Pilots, Marine Officers, Tug Masters, Radio Signal Officers, to enable them grapple with and surmount work related challenges is central to optimisng the comparative advantages that our maritime endowments confer and I am happy that the NPA has taken this giant stride in furtherance of all the efforts that are being made to position our country as the maritime hub for Africa.
“In addition to that, this facility is also of great importance to the national economy given the pivotal role that the maritime sector occupies in the actualisation of the fundamental objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of this administration. The much talked about transition from a mono-product into a diversified economy is heavily dependent on how robust we can make our maritime space.
“This is not to talk about the very important local content component of this facility. Before now, I understand that most of the professional who will use this facility acquired their training outside of Nigeria, but with this initiative by the NPA management, these personnel can now be trained here with ripple effects on national expenditure as well as the provision of employment opportunities, “he said.
He congratulated the management of the NPA for completing the facility that has been abandoned for over 11 years.
While praising the management and board of the NPA for the foresight, he said he was particularly happy that the facility would reduce the expenditure of foreign exchange in training pilots abroad.
According to him, “We must also understand that it is essential to acquire knowledge, you cannot thrive in an environment like this if you don’t have technology and it will impact negatively on the growth of the Nigerian economy. The local content of this facility is also very important; I am also impressed that a lady has been asked to manage it and that only professionals will use the facility for training. I hope that this initiative will churn out as many professionals as possible.
“I want to pledge that as a ministry will continue to support our agencies and encourage them to have inter-agency collaboration towards the attainment of our common goal. I am convinced that the importance of this facility will not be lost on its users, I therefore invite all stakeholders to make the best possible use of this facility as we start to add greater value to the Nigerian economy.”
Investing in Technology
In her speech, the Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman said the project was conceived to conserve foreign exchange for the Nigerian government adding that it was built in partnership with its joint venture partners for the training of pilots locally.
Bala-Usman said training of pilots locally would save the federal government over $1 million (N366 million) annually spent on training pilots in the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States of America.
She added that with the role that technology currently plays in the world, a state-of-the-art simulation centre of this nature is germane because it constitutes a critical success factor in actualising our strategic intent of becoming the leading providers of port services in Africa.
“It is a centre where pilots are trained on how manoeuvre vessels into the water ways. Before now, the NPA and other stakeholders train their pilots outside Nigeria, that is why we have set up this facility to attract not just NPA pilots but pilots across the country to be trained to have the necessary certification. We are opening it for commercial purpose we encourage other maritime operators to come here and train their pilots,” she said.
On how the facility will advance maritime operation in Nigeria, she said the centre will significantly change the capacity of NPA pilots, increase the number of trained pilots in the authority.
“One of the additional values to this is that the sea time that is required will reduce in view of having this simulator centre available for training. We believe this project is important for the NPA as it seeks to save the country foreign exchange, improve on local content as we have more of local trainers having such high-tech equipment available to them. So, it is actually a significant milestone for the NPA and indeed for the maritime industry.
“We have a maintenance facility in place, we have an agreement whereby all the facilities are maintained, and we are seeking to have international accreditation that will further boost the simulator itself. So we are mindful of maintenance and maintenance culture has been instituted in the maintenance agreement put in place,”she stated.
Maintenance, Training Delivery
Also speaking, the Project Manager at the Simulation Centre, Omone Amahia said the renovation of the building housing the centre commenced on the 25th of October, 2017 and was completed 30th of June, 2018.
The building, she added, was officially handed over to the operation, maintenance and training delivery team on the 4th of October, 2018.
“We have been responsible for conducting training delivery and general maintenance of the full big simulator and the entire fabric of the building, now the training delivery is a five-day workshop for eight pilot trainees and one conductor each week. The training delivery is a refresher workshop on theoretical navigation and practical pilotage on techniques and procedures on the full big simulator. The first training commenced on November 1, 2018 and since then we have trained 12 batches making a total of 28 pilot trainees.
“The project could not have been what is, without our 50-man team and a lot of corporations came from the NPA training department, who had worked tirelessly to make it a success and I must make it a point to commend the pilot trainees, as they have conducted themselves with great decorum. The future of this project is to expand the training delivery by coming out with additional workshops and certifications for potentials trainees beyond Nigeria and we hope that this would be a success,” she stated.