• Pay between N100,000 and N150,000
• for sensitive documents
• Syndicate traced to NIMASA
The nation’s lucrative sea faring profession has been penetrated by fake seafarers who never underwent any nautical or marine engineering training, but who work through a powerful syndicate to secure mouth- watering offers from unsuspecting ship owners.
Several weeks of investigations by Shipping Position Weekly revealed that apart from obtaining the all-important Seaman’s Record Book and Certificate of Discharge, which are issued by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the syndicate also has a link with the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron, Akwa Ibom state.
While our correspondent actually sighted two original copies of NIMASA’s record book and certificate of discharge, the MAN Oron’s certificate were actually forged by the gang which in turn issues them for a fee.
Our source confirmed that each complete sets of NIMASA and MAN Oron certificates including certificate of medical fitness cost between N100,000 and N150,00 and that it is payable to a syndicate at the NIMASA’s western zone office at the popular marine beach in Apapa, Lagos.
Further investigations revealed that many of the fake seafarers are currently working on board tankers owned by indigenous ship owners in Nigeria.
Our correspondent actually had an encounter with some of the fakes who have already secured the documents are who are currently awaiting placement on ships and who also paid handsomely for the documents.
Some of them confirmed innocently that they were introduced to the syndicate by friends who had already jobs on board ships and who never went to any maritime training institution or nautical college.
A copy of the documents that were shown to our correspondent indicate that many of them board ships with MAN Oron’s mandatory STCW code and convention courses such as: basic fire prevention and fire fighting, elementary first aid, personal survival at sea, among others.
Shipping Position Weekly had first hinted of the menace of fake sea farers in November last year, but the story was greeted with unbelief by cross section of industry stakeholders.
It was only the National President, Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers
and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Capt. Thomas Kemewerigha who was able to confirm the story at that time.
Capt. Kemewerigha had lamented that issuance of fake certificates was more prevalent when the office of the Government Inspector of Shipping (GIS) was in charge of certificates.
According to him, since the merger of the GIS with the then- National Maritime Authority (NMA), there has been some level of checks. “Forgery started with verification”, he stressed.
Our correspondent gathered last week that the syndicate also ‘organises’ Certificates of Competence and mandatory certificates for ‘ rusty’ seafarers who have not been able to secure sea time within the mandatory period,
The gang also ‘organises’ verification for fake certificates obtained from outside the shores of Nigeria. “This is done with foreign currency, it attracts off shore rates”, a source disclosed.
Another industry personality who pleaded anonymity argued that: “There is no way a fake certificate can beat the scrutiny at NIMASA, unless an insider or group of insiders are colluding with the syndicate outside”, even as he lamented that the worst victims of certificate racketeering in the maritime industry are the trained and certificate-carrying sea farers many of whom have stagnated at the level of either Third Class in the old other or Officer of the Watch keeping (00W) under the new dispensation of certificate upgradement and verification as directed by the International Maritime Organization (lMO).
When contacted, the deputy director in charge of public relations at NIMASA told Shipping Position Weekly that she was unaware of the existent of any syndicate , but assured that NIMASA was doing everything to ensure that its record book and discharge certificates were reinforced and inbuilt with security features that would make them tamper proof.
She also promised that the director general of the agency, Dr Ade Dosunmu would direct that the presence of the syndicate be investigated. She assured that if proven to be correct, all those who are involved would be dealt with accordingly.