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Seafarers groan under poor welfare package

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Some seafarers protesting poor welfare and extortion by NIMASA in Lagos. PHOTO: SULAIMON SALAU


Accuse NIMASA of extortion
As the global shipping industry celebrates the Seafarers Day 2019, some Nigerian seafarers are having bad times, and have therefore displayed their displeasure over an alleged extortion and poor welfare package allegedly set by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

The aggrieved seafarers almost marred the 2019 celebrations held in Lagos, where they displayed placards with various inscriptions to express their displeasure about the prevailing treatment by the regulatory body. But The Guardian observed that the unsatisfied youths were intimidated by their national body and we’re forced to succumb due to the presence of the Wife of the Vice President, Dolapo Osinbajo, and the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Sabiu Zakari, at the venue.

The inscriptions on the placards read: “NIMASA has turned seafarers to Automated Teller Machine; N30,000 for seafarers medicals is too high; Unavailability of medical certificate always; NIMASA see to Nigeria seafarers welfare; stop extorting seafarers; Watch-keeping exams should be monthly, not quarterly; seafarers training has been suspended, why?; and on-board training record book should be scrapped” among others.

Speaking on behalf of the seafarers, Benson Agade, told The Guardian, that they are being subjected to excessive charges by NIMASA, with high cost of documentation.He explained that the certificate of endorsement alone costs N3,600; while entry of discharge book N1,200; watch-keeping exams N14,500; on-board training record book for ratings has just being introduced at N5,000; seafarers medical certificate N30,000, while the certificate is not always available.

Agade said: “I have been working as a seafarer for about 20 years now. Look at me, do I look like someone that is working at all. We are suffering! Many of our passports have expired and they renew it for about N30,000. We also need to do discharge book for N30,000, and many other costly documentation, meanwhile our wages are nothing to write home about. We are being exploited to the extent that I cannot pay my children’s school fees now. They have been sent away from school and I have to borrow money to send them to school.

“It has not been easy with us. They said we should not protest, I would have loved it if they can arrest us or take us to station to go and eat food. We are more than 200, if we decided to go and block NIMASA gate now, they will say we are touts. Government should please come to our aid and stop this exploitation,” he said.

Another seafarer said: “We are the grassroots seafarers, the ratings. We are suffering! NIMASA has not been carrying us, the ratings, along. Our welfare and wages are nothing to write home about. It is so low compared to other seafarers internationally. There is also high discrimination on-board between Nigerians and foreigners. If you want to do endorsement of discharge (book) in the High Court, it is just N500, but NIMASA is collecting N3,650 from us.”

Efforts to get the reactions of the Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, NIMASA, Isichei Osambgi, was unfruitful as his phone line was busy, and text message sent to him on the matter was not replied. Earlier, the Director-General, NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, had said: “the Agency will take necessary steps to ensure improved welfare package and working conditions for seafarers, in line with the provisions of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC 2006).”

Speaking on the theme: “I am on board with gender equality,” he said: “All ship owners, operators, seafarer employers, and other maritime stakeholders should fully identify with the theme by putting in place sustainable policies that will guarantee equal and fair employment for both male and female seafarers.”


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