Coming on the heels of a recent pronouncement by the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr Dakuku Peterside that the agency has stopped the issuance of waivers to International Oil Companies (IOC) on Nigerian waters, the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners has said that this is not possible for now.
Speaking with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos last week, President of the association, Captain Tajudeen Alao also lamented that the maritime sector has been in standstill due to the primary elections conducted by various political parties.
He said that this was not so good for the maritime sector where key positions are being occupied by politicians.
Capt Alao advised that stopping of waivers to oil companies should be carried out in phases, saying that Nigerians do not own new ships, given the financial wherewithal to acquire new builds.
"It is going to be very difficult because, 10 years ago, we said it that vessels below 500tons should be operated by Nigerians, but they now reduced it to 250tons, I expected us to go in phases, from 250tons to 500tons, from 500tons to 2000 and 5000.
"We don't have money, we don't have any new ship around, to raise money in Nigeria is very expensive, and when a ship is not engaged it is still costing you money to maintain"
"We don't really understand what shipping is all about, the profit in shipping is minimal, it is the tax from the employee that gives the company revenue, but we usually look at it as a trading business, mostly, shipping is a service, and until we have the right people at the helm of affairs, we would not get it".
While advising government on the choice of appointments into strategic parastatals, he said "Politicians will come and go, but government needs to pick from among the practitioners, people who have put in up-to thirty to fifty years, this shipping business is the only life they know, but rather they would bring somebody that we would be running after and chasing all over the place".
"At this period that they are having primaries in some of the political parties, nothing has been achieved, there is no leadership, they are concentration is on being relevant politically"
Alao said that presently, the master mariners association under his watch is strategising, and making plans to sanitize the industry and rid it of quacks masquerading as captains and mariners.
On the lack of seatime experience for cadets, he said it would be difficult for oil tankers to offer seatime experience to cadets because they were not built with more rooms.
According to him, the way out is for government to establish a national shipping company and sell it to Nigerians who understands the shipping business.
On cadets seatime, he said "It would be difficult because when these ships were designed, there were no spaces for cadets, so accommodation is always the issue, we are talking about oil and gas, but what about international shipping? If you train your seafarers for international shipping, they can now do local one, you must position yourself for the best, an asset is so expensive and to entrust somebody with your life, it is not so easy"
"There must be a deliberate attempt on the part of government, we can afford it, to buy 10 ships, establish a national shipping company and sell it to Nigerians who know about shipping so that they can monitor what is going on there, if we don't do this, we are wasting our time", he said.