The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has lamented that there is dearth of qualified manpower in the Nigerian maritime sector, even as he announced that NIMASA has offered automatic employment to 20 cadets who excelled academically under its Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP). Speaking at a ceremony to flag-off the phase one of the NIMASA fully sponsored seatime training for 150 NSDP, which held in Lagos yesterday, Director General of NIMASA,Dr. Dakuku Peterside said the agency has finally broken the jinx of lack of seatime which he described as a global challenge. He said that realisation dawned on NIMASA at the commencement of its Cabotage Compliance Strategy, which forced all Cabotage vessels to send away their foreign seafarers. According to him, the agency now gets demands for captains, first mate and other categories of seafarers, but they are not available. "Until we started the new Cabotage Compliance Strategy, I did not know we had that dearth of seafarers, with this new strategy, vessels that operate within our waters are now forced to send away the foreigners onboard their vessels, it was then we realized as an agency that there is acute dearth of qualified manpower in the maritime industry" "Everyday, we get demands for captains, first mate and other categories of seafarers and we can't find them, I can tell you, so there is gap that needs to be filled even in our local industry ",he lamented. Giving a breakdown, Peterside said that the 150 cadets consist of 77 Deck and 73 Engine cadets. In addition, he said another group of 89 cadets also within the first phase will be proceeding to the South Tyneside College (STC), UK for their on-board sea-time training, making a total of 239 cadets. He noted that 20 Cadets who have so far graduated with academic distinctions are going to be absolved by the agency. "Management of the agency will award automatic employment to all those who bagged first class honours in this group that we are presenting this award today, I implore those of you bound to sail to come back with even higher laurels", he charged. He said there are 33 cadets who made First Class, but a number of them are already employed on oceangoing vessels. Meanwhile, three of the cadets were also given scholarships, while nine were presented with awards. The NIMASA boss congratulated all the cadets who are on the first list for On-Board Training and reiterate that the whole country is depending on their good performance in Egypt. "You are expected to be good ambassadors of Nigeria in Egypt, we expect nothing but the best, given the choice the nation has made especially at a period in our national lives where other sectors of the economy are yearning for funding, we implore you to bring the flair and can-do spirit of Nigeria that has caught the attention of the world in various fields like medicine, engineering, law and even ICT across the globe to bear" "For the Cadets who did not make the list, there is nothing to worry about, every one of you will be offered an opportunity to go on sea-time in 2018 and beyond according to schedule" he assured. Presently, the programme has over 243 Graduates and 1600 cadets at various stages of completion of the programme out of which 887 are ready for sea-time training.