A maritime industry expert has stressed the need for a robust infrastructural and human capital development in the sector.
This, according to the expert, will enable the country seafarers’ leverage the huge opportunity of the over 3000 ships that berth along its coastal territories with 80 percent being foreign flagged.
Former Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and Chairman, Mission to Seafarers (MTS), Adebayo Sarumi, stated this at a forum in Lagos.
He said with the nation’s rich heritage in the maritime space, the need to develop maritime facilities and seafarers becomes imperative in local content driven economy.
Sarumi said: “Seafarers welfare is a hydra-headed challenge and as a port nation not only for ourselves but also serving other countries including the landlocked nations. It is imperative that as the nation is seeking local content in repositioning the economy through maritime, Infrastructural and Manpower development is needed.
“A pointer to this is the fact that even during this precarious COVID-19 period, maritime trade remained an essential service and seafarers are essential workers. The sad irony is that while most pay attention to the Cargo, few ever ask, who delivers them.”
He added: “The men and women that work assiduously to sustain our precious maritime trade are the invisible hands that propel nations to sustenance and survival. They are also the most overlooked aspect of the value chain as their welfare are often trivialised.”
Meanwhile, in a bid to reposition the MTS as a humanitarian and non-governmental secular organisation dedicated to the welfare of seafarers in the country, Sarumi highlighted the resolve of the body’s new management committee inaugurated to chart a new course for the mission.
He said the need for modern place where seafarers on shore leave can relax and sometimes have their mandatory papers processed if required, irrespective of their nationalities would be necessary considering the nation’s status as port nation.
“Presently, the Nigeria station is currently developing seafarers facilities within the centre and hope to form a sustained and substantive collaboration with the industry players towards making Nigeria’s MTS internationally recognised, “he said.
According to him, a functional MTS center as obtains in other countries would enable seafarers entering the seaports and other stakeholders operating in the sector have more confidence in the system.
He added: “Anything a seafarer needs to survive in a foreign land as he enters any nation MST will provide it, but most seafarers have bad narrative with their experience in Nigeria in this regard. When completed the seafarers’ mission center will be a complete facility that will meet the needs of the international seafarers entering Nigeria.”
Seafarers in the country had recently decried what they described as marginalisation by the Nigeria LNG Limited and foreign ship owners in preference for their counterpart in other countries with less qualification.
This, they said, was despite the massive investment in seafarers’ manpower development by the federal government championed by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
According to them, the discrimination, which is allegedly common among foreign companies has become evident in Nigeria with several indigenous companies including the Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), a liquefied natural gas (LNG) producing company with the Nigerian government as a shareholder.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues, a seafarer, Daniel Ikueyemi, posited that the poor feedback mechanism at NIMASA has deprived the agency of the true impact of the investment in seafarers’ development.