Retired Navy Captain Abel Ogah has said that political sentiments were main reason qualified Nigerian seafarers are being sidelined, and incompetent ones are getting employed.
Capt Abel who is the Director of the Merchant Navy Directorate spoke with Shipping Position Daily in Lagos last week and said that Nigeria has qualified seafarers, but they are not being employed by shipowners.
He said that seafarers’ employment is no longer based on competence, but personal connections.
According to him, both Nigerian and foreign vessel owners are in constant violation of the Cabotage Law which states that vessel should be manned by Nigerians; he said shipowners recruit quacks in their quest for cheap labour.
Shipowners are taking advantage of the situation because there is no regulation and monitoring of the Cabotage Law, he argued.
He also alleged that shipowners employ their relations who are not trained onboard while trained seafarers are not employed"The first question is, do we have trained seafarers? if we have trained seafarers, where do we train them?
If you don't give somebody an assignment you cannot know the person's competence"
"In Nigeria for example, NIMASA claims to be training people yearly, but the only way to know if the person you have trained has the competence is when you give him a vessel to handle"
"Today, even the employment we have is not based on competence, three people graduated from school, but the person that got the job is the one with an ordinary pass, not even third class"
"And because he has connection but no competence, he would be judged as incompetent when he begins to perform, meanwhile the person who graduated with first class is not employed; he is still carrying papers up and down"
"Foreign vessels are not employing Nigerians, because of trust and antecedents, even Nigerian seafarers would prefer to pay more money to foreigners because they believe in the ideal", he lamented.
The retired Navy Officer stressed that until the competent seafarers are employed and tested, you cannot know his competence by mere looking at him.
He said that ideal seafarers have a standard wage which vessel owners don't want to pay, so they resort to cheap labour.
"You cannot say that people who go to train in ideal places like Ghana, United States and come back without employment and you say they are incompetent"
"And because they are not employed, they would revert back to piracy. It is only a person that knows the maritime environment that can engage in piracy", he added