Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MSAN) has kicked against the alleged inhuman treatment meted out to seafarers working onboard MT Barnet.
Shipping Position Daily had last week reported exclusively that a seafarer named Benson Erefa had called for help for himself and nine other seafarers currently working on board an oil vessel; MT BARNET.
Erefa, alleged that the two officers and eight ratings (all Nigerians) on board the tanker are being subjected to untold hardship.
Narrating their experiences last weekend, the distraught sailor had appealed to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to come to their rescue, even as he claimed that their ordeal has already being communicated to NIMASA and waiting response.
However, reacting to the alleged maltreatment of the seafarers, a specialist in Maritime Security and Secretary Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Captain Alfred Oluwasegun Oniye alleged that the major reason the shipping companies have continued to maltreat seafarers is as a result of NIMASA’s involvement in the manning of crew onboard vessels.
He alleged that some of NIMASA staff are ‘stakeholders’ in the ship crewing and as a result they have lost the power to prosecute many of the vessel owners, due to their secret involvement in the shipping companies, he added that NIMASA staff only used some people to front while alleging that most of the manning agents are NIMASA staff.
According to him, “one of the major reasons is because the shipping companies have seen NIMASA as a toothless bull dog that can only bark but cannot bite, the crime they are committing is an open crime; a criminal cannot have the mind to commit crime openly when he knows that he will be arrested, but because they know that we don’t have an agency that can arrest them, that is why they are doing what they are doing.
“Secondly, NIMASA staff are stakeholders in most of those companies, so when a seafarer report shipping company to NIMASA, it’s like when you are reporting a company to the owner of the company, so what do you expect NIMASA to do?
“So, when you see shipping companies maltreating seafarers, it is NIMASA staff that are maltreating seafarers because NIMASA staff are stakeholders in those shipping companies, they only used some people to front, most of the manning agencies are owned by NIMASA staff, so they are toothless bull dog that cannot bite.
I have facts in my hands, if they report your company to you, are you going to nail your own company?
It will be better for NIMASA to do the right thing because seafarers are not going to fold their arms and watch them continue, seafarers are not slaves; without seafarers this industry cannot function
“I have about three to five petitions against these shipping companies by crew working on board, with evidence
“I am a trained detective and I don’t talk when I don’t have fact in my hands, these people are bunch of criminals” he alleged.
Efforts to get the update on the state of the embattled seafarers were abortive because the Head of Maritime Labour Services at NIMASA; Dr. Amos Kuje promised to get back to our correspondent, but he never did. Telephone calls and messages sent to him were also not responded to as at the time of filing this report.