"Merchant Navy is not a Security Navy; they are like traders”
Mr Chris Sadoh is the Head of Shipping Management Department, Stars Maritime Academy. In this interaction with Shipping Position Daily correspondent; Dapo Olawuni he spoke about the challenges facing young Nigerian seafarers, especially, getting sea time and general unemployment. "Having your mandatories done in Nigeria means that you are limited to Nigerian waters"
Tell us briefly about Stars Maritime Academy Stars Maritime Academy is the foremost private academy in Nigeria, where we train individuals to become marine engineers, Captains of ships and shipping practitioners. So far so good, we have been able to go beyond the shores of this country to ensure that our graduates can compete with others in the world. To the best of my knowledge, maritime is not narrowed to Nigeria alone, it is worldwide, So, I can beat my chest to tell you that Stars Maritime Academy is fully on ground. We run other courses that can award you a Bachelors degree, it is not us awarding the degree, because we don't have the impetus to award the degree, but we are in affiliation with foreign countries that train individuals in different fields to bag their Bsc. We are doing this to ensure that our graduates don't see what we are doing for them as a terminal programme, we do it for them to progress geometrically.
Which of the schools are you in partnership with? We have affiliation with one of the renowned University in Benin Republic where students are trained and certificated.
What do you think is the permanent solution to problem of lack of sea time for cadets? When you talk about sea time, I believe that to train a maritime person without having a sea time is meaningless, if you go to developed nations like Philippines, 80% of the ship owners there are private individuals and not government, this is so because there is encouragement. In Nigeria here, we don't have encouragement, we try to bring down our selves instead, today, Nigeria does not have a shipping line, the few ships you see navigating the waters are owned by individuals and foreigners. There was a time we had a scheme like CVFF, before this, we had the Ship Building and Ship Acquisition Fund, but what happened is that the scheme died prematurely because we have people who are not sincere to themselves or the society. So, to get an individual trained without having enough ships for them to get sea time will affect the youths coming into the maritime industry. Notwithstanding, we try and encourage our cadets not to narrow themselves to Nigeria alone, because maritime is worldwide, some of the boys we trained at Stars Academy are now in Qatar and other foreign countries as captains of ships, marine engineers and so on. When they come to us for advice on how to get their mandatories, in Nigeria, we have places where they can run it, but we don't encourage them to do it here, we encourage them to go to Ghana for their mandatories, we do this because Nigeria is a maritime nation; in quote, we are not on the White List of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), therefore, having your mandatories done in Nigeria means that you are limited to Nigerian waters. But if you go to Ghana for your mandatories, you can sail the world and make your dollars, this is because Ghana is on the White List of the IMO.
Mushroom academies in maritime sector is a concern, do you support setting up more academies? We lack encouragement, a tree cannot make a forest, if we want to be sincere to ourselves, Nigeria is where we have youths yearning for marine courses, Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron cannot shoulder that responsibility alone, all we need to do is to encourage any individual or organisation that may want to float an institution to train our youths. However, the right things must be done, if you must run an academy, the Federal Ministry of Education gives such approval, under them we have the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) they are in charge of such approvals. Anyone interested must get the approvals and ensure that proper things are done before a maritime academy can be floated, not to start running a mushroom school, nothing good comes out of a haphazard arrangement. I am not against NIMASA frowning against some individuals trying to float mushroom schools, but before you castigate, there are some you call mushrooms but they are not really mushroom, you have to find out the extent they have gone with the apex body that approves institutions in Nigeria.
How can we discourage cadets from using their uniforms to impersonate the regular Navy? If you come to our academy today, we have a uniform they wear which is acceptable by merchant navy worldwide. Because of the fraudulent practice of some cadets going outside to claim what they are not, this is why if you come to Stars Maritime Academy today, we don't allow them to wear blue uniforms anymore, we have stopped them for a long time ago, what some of them do is to go out there and be impersonating the Nigerian Navy. To distinguish ourselves from all this mess, we carved out a uniform which is acceptable worldwide, even if you go to other maritime nations, what our boys are wearing is what they wear, we always tell them not to claim what they are not; merchant navy is not a security navy, they are traders so to speak, they are of commercial, the cadets should be cautioned not to be carried away. In our place, any of the cadets that tries to impersonate would be sent home, because this is gross insubordination and indiscipline of the highest order.
How can we solve the problems of cadets roaming the streets and not having jobs? The job issue is not narrowed to maritime graduates alone, Nigeria alone has job issues, we don't have job opportunities, this is why we blame our leaders, they travel abroad every now and then and they see what is happening there, but for them to come home and set up factories and companies that are maritime-inclined so that these maritime graduates can be engaged, they don't. We need leaders who are genuine and would be ready to shoulder the responsibilities of the country and not personal greed. This is why we preach to the graduates not to limit themselves to Nigeria alone, if you can go beyond the shores of this country called Nigeria, you would get a job for yourself .
The Speaker of House of Representatives recently said that we need up to 50,000 seafarers, how do we now develop and use them in Nigeria? There is no encouragement here, Nigerians are quick to discriminate if the certificate is not from MAN, Oron, we have heard opportunity of our boys meeting with MAN Oron graduates and the difference is so clear, it is not by name, it is by what you have inside you, what makes a man is not what you claim to be, but it is by what is inside you. Because of humiliation, this is why we tell our boys to look for opportunities out there.
Following the crisis in MAN Oron, do you support steps recently taken by the transportation minister? It is not out of place for the minister to appoint a management team, what he has done is what he ought to have done as a minister. From history, MAN Oron has been managed by the indigenes and there has not been a good report, because any money voted for the academy is usually squandered, yet we say that it is the apex maritime academy in Nigeria. This is another opportunity, they should allow the new management to work and let us compare and contrast and see the difference, not to start castigating the Minister. The new management team should be allowed to run the academy for a period of time for us to see the variance.