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New hopes for seafarers despite concerns on mental wellness

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For Nigerian seafarers, the decision to choose shipping service profession was never a mistake, it is indeed a blessing as hope for better days lies ahead of them.This played out recently as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) marked the Day of the Seafarers in grand style. Just as it was celebrated by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) yearly, the event, which took place in Warri, Delta State got the attention of top government functionaries, major stakeholders and seafarers, with challenges, opportunities and mental well being of seafarers as the focus point.

Indeed, the gathering brought to the fore several risk factors that confront the seafarers in the sea. Some of these include that; seafarers experience intense emotions, anxiety, hopelessness, negativity, and helplessness at sea.Besides, reports showed that the mental health of sea goers have recently received a lot of attention because of rise in mortality rate. This mortality has attributed to suicide and it accounts for about 14.3 per cent deaths at sea.

Seafaring is a physically demanding occupation in a dangerous and tasking environment. The demand of the split shift pattern, long hours has been linked to fatigue and fatigue is a strong risk of mental health problem. However, alcohol and drugs, which is common among sea goers is said to influence behavior and emotion therefore a major contributor of mental health issues.

These and many more necessitated the ‘Day of the Seafarer’, which is celebrated all over the world on the 25th of June every year. It started eight years ago following the resolution adopted by the 2010 diplomatic conference in Manila, Philippines To adopt the STCW Convention. This year’s theme is Seafarers’ “wellbeing” with particular focus on their mental health.

President, Maritime Workers’ Union (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju said seafaring is a demanding and risk profession carried out in a dangerous workplace- the sea.Adeyanju, who was represented by the Secretary General, MWUN, Felix Akingboye, advised the Federal Government to facilitate the establishment of a national shipping carrier in other to enhance the Nigerian seafaring opportunities. “We believe that if a national carrier is in place, it will solve some problems of seafarers and other workers,” he said.

The Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, commended the seafarers noting that the efficiency and effectiveness of the Nigerian economy depends largely on the maritime sector as over 90 per cent of the world trade are transported through the sea. The Governor who was represented by the Deputy Governor of the state, Barrister Kingsley Otuaro further applauded the initiative of the establishment of the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), which is the first specialized in Africa and expressed the readiness of the State to partner the Agency in actualizing the vision behind the establishment of the institution.

“As a State, we are prepared to support and partner NIMASA and the Federal Government of Nigeria to ensure the underlying motive of establishing the Maritime University is achieved; we are also certain that the University undoubtedly will be a source of training more seafarers and adding more commercial value to the Nigerian economy” the Governor said.

President, National Merchant Navy Officer and Water Transportation Senior Staff Association, Alade Mathew, urged NIMASA to see into the activities of the manning agents who allegedly collects huge amount of money before placing cadets on board vessels.“The seafarers risk lives by confronting storms, piracy among others, which caused mental stress, but unfortunately they receive less attention from their employers,” he said, adding that seafarers have to be encouraged in other to sustain sea trade.He advised the shipping companies to be more involved with the health of the crew and reduce exposure to risk factors.

Mathew also enjoined NIMASA to facilitate the process of issuing certificates of competency to seafarers.Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello, expressed his support for improved well being of seafarers as being championed by NIMASA, noting that the role of seafarers cannot be underrated, considering their contributions to global seaborne trade.

However, he urged the employers of seafarers to ensure that they implement the contributory pension scheme for their workers, threatening to report erring employers to the Pension Commission for appropriate sanctions.Director-General, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, disclosed that the National Joint industrial Council (NJlC) has concluded negotiations on the conditions of service of Nigerian Seafarers, including the minimum wages payable to all categories of seafarers.

Peterside said: “It is believed that by addressing the issue of Seafarers wellbeing and particularly their mental health, all other issues affecting their mental conditions such as stress and depression could effectively be tackled through the adoption of effective strategies in this regard.Calling on all employers to ensure the promotion of International Labour Organisation’s (lLO’s) decent work agenda which aims at promoting the workers mental health and wellbeing, Peterside said: “There is no doubt that Nigerians Seafarers are faced with a lot of challenges that are work related and bordering on depression arising from lack of job opportunities and long hours of work without commensurate pay. In most cases the seafarers work under strenuous conditions, which they are subjected to by their employers.

“As an Agency saddled with the responsibility of regulating the activities of all maritime labour employers and their employees, we remain committed to making Nigeria a hub of maritime activities by ensuring that our waters are safe for navigation and the ships operating on our waters maintain a high safety standard,” he said.

He said NIMASA had in past few years embarked on the training and retraining of Nigerian Seafarers and Cadets in specialized maritime courses both locally and abroad which is aimed at enhancing their competences and employability.

“The Agency has so for trained over 205l cadets under the Nigerian Seafarers development programme (NSDP). In addition to those who have already undergone their mandatory sea time training, 500 have been earmarked for sea time training in 2018 fiscal year, while another 500 will undergo the training in 2019.

“Furthermore, 150 fresh cadets will benefit from the programme under the NSDP~3 which will commence in the next academic session. “The Agency in May this year facilitated the training of 370 Nigerian seafarers in relevant courses leading to certifications on Standard of Training Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW)), Oil tanker familiarization, Security Awareness (lSPS) Code, Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boat (PSCRB) and Dynamic Positioning.

“Let me also mention that 560 dockworkers also benefitted from the training programme on Occupational Safety and Health which was developed in line with the lLO’s Code of practice on OSH,” he stated.He also highlighted the importance of the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 which he said Nigerian ratified in 2013, stating that it made adequate provisions for seafarers’ welfare which if fully implemented will also guarantee their wellbeing.“As the competent authority for the implementation of all IMO and ILO conventions, NIMASA has diligently commenced the implementation of the convention in Nigeria from the time it entered into force in 2014 till date, through the conduct of port and flag inspections on board vessels operating in our waters,” he said.


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Adewale AdeyanjuImoNIMASA
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