Otunba Kunle Folarin (Chairman, Nigerian Ports Consultative Council)
It depends on the level you are looking at it, if the government has the Cabotage law that says that manning of ships must comprise 100 percent Nigerians and exemption can only be by waiver granted by the ministry of transportation, precisely the Minister. So if you see a lower cadre seafarer working onboard a vessel, it means that there must have been a waiver, the shipping company cannot just place somebody onboard without a waiver, therefore it means that the ministry has to look into the policy of granting waivers. The policy and it's procedure is very clear, it must be when there is no Nigerian to do that particular job they would grant the waiver, and until the waiver is granted, the shipping company cannot bring out foreigners to mount their vessel. So the fault starts from the ministry, why should they give a waiver when there are Nigerians who can do the job, so it translates into the fact that unemployment of Nigerian seafarers is increasing because waiver is being granted.
Captain Oluwasegun Oniye (Merchant Navy)
The people we should blame are; NIMASA, shipping companies and the Minister of Transport. No matter where you are trained, America, Nigeria, UK, Egypt, Ghana, provided you are a Nigerian, manning agents will say you are unemployable, can you imagine the degradation that Nigerian Seafarers are being subjected to in their own country?
Most of manning agents are NIMASA staff; they are basically making personal money from these foreigners.
How can Nigerian seafarers be good at their job when you do not employ them? Seafaring as a job is practical, so you have to learn on the job and not outside the job (you learn by doing it).
You cannot learn how to drive a car or a mechanical study by seating in the classroom, same thing goes to seafaring as a carrier. On the part of NIMASA, they are not supposed to give directive but enforce the existing law. You don't give directive on an existing law, you enforce because it is law. From our standpoint, NIMASA can not enforce the law because they are making money from these foreigners. Corruption has eaten so deep in NIMASA that I can boldly tell you that 99% of NIMASA staff are corrupt; NIMASA is a cancer in this industry.
John Okpono (Merchant Navy)
We will share in the blame; one is that the country doesn’t have a national carrier they don’t have their own vessel, so all the laws including the Cabotage law cannot work because we don’t have a vessel of our own. They bring their own vessel and their own conditions, thereby neglecting our own conditions. The shipping companies on the other hand are complaining of not getting jobs from NNPC thereby unable to employ the indigenous seafarers. So if the contract is not coming from NNPC to them instead NNPC are awarding the contract to foreign vessel they will be handicapped they won’t have the opportunity to employ our boys. Those that are employed are not even paid the seafarers complain of not being paid well.
Some of them are saying that the seafarers are not qualified but we know that we have qualified seafarers. In our pool as merchant navy we know we have qualified seafarers i am giving you reasons for the unemployment of our seafarers.
Francis Omotosho (Nigerian Institute of Shipping)
The reason Nigerian Seafarers are jobless is because the concerned government agency being the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has not put in place the right concepts that would take care of the volume of potential seafarers under training, waiting to be graduated, plus those who are already qualified professionals as seafarers vis-a-vis the field of practice that would absorb them as a practicing player.
Dr. Babatunde Samuel (Registrar, Port and Terminal Management Academy)
I believe that the unemployment of Nigerian seafarers has to do with many factors; the major among them is knowledge gap among seafarers as they received training activities through different institutions with different curriculum and method of applying their teachings.
The second factor to blame is the inability to effect sea time training for practical experience as mandated by regulatory authorities. We can also say the unemployment is largely due to Non availability of Nigerians owning deep sea vessels to engage our seafarers.
Ike Chilaka (Marine Engineer)
The issue is not who is in charge of recruiting seafarers, we have a problem. The way things are going there will be a time when there will be no more seafarers and there will also not be ships. So there are lots of problems the seafarers have. So what we have here is more or less half-baked as far as this maritime industry is concerned. So it is a huge problem and that gives foreigners an edge over us. It was not like that in the past; in the past people were sent abroad to study and we had very good hands those days. In the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), the federal government was able to send people on training. These days government pays little attention to training of seafarers even the schools that started these training are not well equipped. So as a result what we have are half baked professionals in this field.
Engineer Matthew Alalade (Merchant Navy)
It is the duty of NIMASA to recruit them, if they have good papers, they will be taken but some of them don’t have good papers, so they should go to NIMASA. I don’t believe that they are half-baked, we still have some that have good certificates; that are genuine and those ones are the junior officers. I believe what they mean by half-baked is that some of them didn’t finish, maybe they stopped on the way. I think they should go to NIMASA for jobs. At times NIMASA come to us as union and request for seafarers and we suggest to them.
Captain Joseph Awodeha (Master Mariner)
First, where did they get the news that our seafarers are not employed on Nigerian vessels? If you are talking about the NSDP, it is different, Nigerian vessels are employing Nigerian seafarers who are not officers but the people that are trained to be the officers are cadets. The NSDP people have done their classroom work but they have not gotten sea time so that they can go and do their professional exams. And for the fact that you have not done your professional exams, you are not an officer; so why will an employer employ you. It is like after your graduation in the university and you didn’t do your NYSC officially in Nigeria, you are not yet ready to be employed.