Monday, 2nd October 2023

Merchant Navy, others make case for Nigerian seafarers

By Adaku Onyenucheya
23 December 2020   |   3:15 am
The National President of Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA), Comrade Bob Yousou, has lamented abandonment, repatriation, insecurity

The National President of Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA), Comrade Bob Yousou, has lamented abandonment, repatriation, insecurity, unpaid wages and poor remuneration as challenges facing the Nigerian seafarers.

Yousou, who disclosed this at the commissioning of its newly acquired national secretariat in Apapa Lagos, said the hazardous nature of seafaring is worth appreciating, but the nation’s seafarers are maltreated and poorly remunerated by employers due to lack of Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and sense of belonging to the right union.

“I want to urge the seafarers’ employers to always look at the plight of Nigerian seafarers by not owing them their wages, but pay as at when due. The hazardous nature of seafaring is worth appreciating. We shall no longer tolerate slavery wages for our seafarers. The International Labour Organisation standard in terms of decent working conditions must be applied,” he said.

Yousou also decried the proliferation of fake certification by some groups but reaffirmed that the union will continue to fight for the protection of seafarers’ with the right certification.

He added that fake certification is a global phenomenon and must be condemned by both regulatory agencies and employers to enhance global professionalism while urging the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to enter into agreements with other maritime nations of the world, in furtherance to promote seafaring.

The National President also decried foreigners taking up the jobs of Nigerian seafarers while calling on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to speed up the issuance of the Certificate of Competence to successful seafarers, as well as expedite action on the issue of Class 1 and 2 certificates.

He, therefore, advised seafarers to either belong to the Merchant Navy or the junior cadre and Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to ensure that the CBA Agreement is in place for them before embarking on a voyage.

According to him, the union under his administration would engage shipping companies and manning agents constructively to protect workers’ welfare packages, adding that the two unions were the only bodies recognised and gazetted by the Federal Government of Nigeria.

A Maritime Security Consultant, Rear Admiral Godwill Ombo (rtd), who spoke to The Guardian on the security of Nigerian seafarers in the Gulf of Guinea waters and the continuous pirates attack, lamented the countries are not proactive towards maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea, as they are relaxed towards ending the problem.

Ombo stressed that while the speed of the ship is slow in combating pirates, countries should adopt “Air Access”, otherwise efforts at tackling maritime security would fail.

“What happens at sea today, I can tell you proudly that Nigeria can know what happens at sea at any given point in time. When an incident happens at sea, except a ship is there to react, there is nothing it can do. Before a ship will travel from when it gets to the port to when it gets to where the incident has happened, the pirates would have finished their attack and gone.

On the global recognition of Nigerian seafarers, Ombo further argued that until the Nigerian Merchant Navy is constitutionally recognised and established, the seafarers will continue to have a problem.

The Africa Regional Secretary, International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), Muhammed Dauda Safiyanu, said Nigerian seafarers are facing huge problems, which include pirate attacks and lack of international certificates, as the Nigerian certificate does not give them the power to go into the international arena.

He said the Federation, in its Maritime Support Affiliate Project’ in Nigeria, has lined up an approach to address pirates attack and getting global International certification for Nigerian seafarers.

“We are now concentrating on how we increase the ITF agreement. This agreement tends to take care of the Nigerian seafarers’ welfare and safety. We want to see how best we can have a robust discussion with NIMASA, Shipowners and managers so that there will be a kind of an international certification that will give Nigerians the benefit of being in the international arena,” he added.

In his goodwill message, The Director-General, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who was represented by Captain Kennedy Fiemotongha, said the maritime regulatory agency would do its best to ensure a better life for all seafarers in the country.