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Nigeria, others urged to improve seafarers’ skills for green shipping transition

By Adaku Onyenucheya
10 May 2023   |   3:57 am
Nigeria and other African governments have been charged to upgrade their training infrastructure to develop seafarers for green shipping transition.

Seafarers. Photo: BULK

Nigeria and other African governments have been charged to upgrade their training infrastructure to develop seafarers for green shipping transition.

Recall that the Maritime Just Transition Task Force in its research, disclosed that about 800,000 seafarers could require additional training by the mid-2030s to use low- to zero-carbon fuels under possible net-zero targets by 2050.

The Senior Manager, Trade Policy and Employment Affairs, at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Helio Vicente, explained that setting up green seafarer training initiatives would minimise risk and human errors when transitioning to new fuels and technologies.

Vicente noted that with the mix of low and zero-carbon fuels set to power ships in the future, training and upskilling seafarers has become more urgent.

“Technology must evolve in step with seafarer skills so that the shift to a greener future is done as safely and efficiently as possible, minimising risk along the supply chain. African maritime leaders must act now to ensure that their workforces are primed for shipping’s green transition,” she stated.

The Chief Executive Officer of the International Maritime Employers Council (IMEC), Francesco Gargiulo, said while the shipping decarbonisation journey will be powered by human beings, the industry is already experiencing a need for sufficient skilled workers to operate modern vessels as this will only continue to grow over the coming years.

He said with Africa being a potential major seafarer supply continent, developing the talent of seafarers offers a pathway to delivering a greener future for shipping and the wider maritime world.

The Regional Secretary, International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Africa, Mohammed Safiyanu, said transitioning away from fossil fuels requires additional skill sets that must be properly developed.

He said while this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for African countries to develop their own highly skilled seafaring workforces.

“As one of the world’s biggest growth markets with 1.3 billion people and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $3.5 trillion, Africa could reap some of the rewards of shipping’s green transition.

“The sooner we begin investing in green skills, the more likely we can crew the low-emission vessels of tomorrow. The future of green shipping in the region must involve high-skill and quality jobs for African seafarers,” he said.

Meanwhile, experts have commended maritime institutions in Nigeria and their upgraded infrastructure, while expressing hope of enhanced seafaring skills for the operation of modern vessels in line with the green transition.

Former National President, Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers & Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Matthew Alalade, said, although Nigeria is still not there yet with the level of its maritime institutions, more work needs to be done to attain highly skilled seafaring workforces.

He, however, urged the Federal Government to upgrade the training institutions by providing high technology as well as a partnership with global maritime institutions.

An ex-cadet of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, Obiji Ebenezer, acknowledged that maritime institutions in the country have infrastructure for sufficient training of seafarers.

He said there have been infrastructural upgrades of the institutions, which include, free laptops with adequate internet facilities, installation of modern simulators, helicopter underwater escape training equipment, full mission bridge, full engine room, multifunctional classroom, ocular vision simulator and so many more.

Another ex-cadet of MAN, Ikheloa Lazarus, said Nigeria is ready in terms of infrastructure based on what is obtainable currently in the institutions.

He said there have been upgrades to the curriculum to accommodate courses such as training for the transportation of hazardous materials through the sea (HAZMAT) as well as other courses that are in line with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) modern-day training shipping courses.

The Special Advisor, Ocean, United Nations Global Compact, Sturla Henriksen, called for an urgent inclusive approach to decarbonise shipping in line with the Paris Agreement.

Henriksen noted the need for collaboration of governments, policymakers, ship owners and operators, seafarers’ unions and other stakeholders to achieve the feat.

He said this will create the market certainty to unlock investments in seafarer training and skills to support high-quality and decent green maritime jobs of the future for Africa.