This week marks yet another round of celebrations all over the world, especially among member nations of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) for the annual ritual that is called the World Maritime Day.
Nigeria, of course joined in the celebration which (as usual) was hosted by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety (NIMASA).
The World Maritime Day holds every year on the last week of September, although the exact date of national celebration is up to individual governments around the world. The theme for the World Maritime Day 2008 is “IMO: 60 years in the service of shipping”. This theme celebrates the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the IMO Convention and the 50th anniversary of its entry into force.
This year, it focused on shipping and the environment; hence the theme of 2009 celebrations is: “Climate change: a challenge for IMO too”.
Being a self-acclaimed frontline maritime nation in Africa, Nigeria certainly deserves to join the rest of the world to celebrate and clink glasses.
Of course, the day is set aside by the global IMO to drive home the importance of safety in shipping, maritime security and the need for a conducive marine environment. It also uses the opportunity of the annual celebration to emphasize a particular aspect of IMO’s work.
In all her years of membership of the highly- respected body, Nigeria can boast of two symbolic accomplishments, that is, making the ‘white list’ and the membership of the elite council of the body (albeit) at category ‘C’ level. That is about all there is to it.
We know that the IMO places high premium on “safer seas and cleaner oceans” as its motto. We also know that Nigeria has several kilometres of coast line.
Apart from these, the nation is blessed with abundant, raw human resources, a crop of highly trained personnel and of course, a pool of first generation and top-rate manpower.
While the latter were trained during the good old days of Nigeria as a ship- owning nation, the crop of today’s employable manpower has remained unfortunate.
As much as we join the rest of the world to congratulate the IMO for decades of dedicated service to the maritime industry, we urge managers of Nigeria’s maritime policies to note the following.
The Nigerian maritime sector is characterised by mass unemployment, domination by foreign interests, ridiculously low indigenous fleet, inadequate data and record keeping, obsolete laws and grossly unfair trading terms, among others.
The fact that NIMASA spearheads the annual World Maritime Day celebration also indicates that it is the focal point for solutions to the problems militating against the sector. It is the focal agency for maritime safety administration, but an assessment of the myriads of problems will justify our stand point. We dare say that the solutions to the problems that are facing the maritime sector today are within the reach of NIMASA.
The NIMASA is the regulatory agency for the implementation of Merchant Shipping Act and the Cabotage Act. Its responsibilities also include: engagement of seafarers and maritime labour in addition to performing port and flag state control functions, provision of functional search and rescue as well as maritime security facilities.
As the nation celebrates yet another maritime day, we dare say that we may not have a sufficient reason to rejoice. Whereas the IMO can beat its chest to say it has kept faith with its mandate of ensuring cleaner oceans and safer shipping, can Nigeria say that it has also kept faith? No.
We appraise the benefits of Nigeria’s membership of the global body from the perspectives of how well NIMASA and her predecessor; that is, the National Maritime Authourity (NMA) have pursued their mandate.
We urge NIMASA to show more seriousness about mastering its mandate which include among others: enhancement of indigenous capacity through fleet expansion, ensuring safety of navigation; including safety of crew, cargo and vessel as well as pollution control, manpower development and maintenance of a world class registry.
Membership of the IMO and its elite Council is not enough justification for backslapping. We must take advantage of our membership of the Council.