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How NLNG sustains investment in seafarers’ development

 …Wants 100% Nigerians onboard vessels by 2022

Due to the role seafarers play in the global supply chain, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the world’s maritime regulatory organ of the United Nations, set aside June 25 of every year to celebrate the contributions of seafarers to the development of a global economy.

The outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, for instance, has justified further the place of seafarers in the global economy. Without a doubt, seafarers are the engine that propels the vehicle of international trade. They make sure that essential goods are moved from countries of production to the countries where they are needed. This explains why the IMO came up with a campaign themed, ‘Seafarers are Key Workers,’ to mark this year’s Day.

To IMO, seafarers are on the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food, medicines and other medical supplies. However, the crisis has led to difficult working conditions for seafarers, including uncertainties and difficulties with port access, re-supply, crew changeovers, and repatriation.

This year’s ‘Day of the Seafarer’ campaign calls on maritime nations to recognise seafarers as key workers – and to provide them with the support, assistance, and travel options open to all key workers during the pandemic.

This campaign encourages every shipping stakeholder to treat seafarers with the respect and dignity they deserve so that they can continue to provide their vital services to keep world trade moving.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the global population of seafarers serving on merchant ships is estimated at 1,647,500.  Of this number,  774,000 are officers and 873,500 are ratings.

Sadly, countries like China, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine are about the five largest suppliers of all seafarers (officers and ratings). The Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings, while China is the biggest supplier of officers.

ICS estimates that the global demand for seafarers stands at 1,545,000, with the industry requiring approximately 790,500 officers and 754,500 ratings. This indicates that the demand for officers has increased by around 24.1 percent, while the demand for ratings has increased by around 1.0 percent.

The current supply-demand situation highlights a shortage of approximately 16,500 officers and a surplus of around 119,000 ratings. While the global supply of officers is forecast to increase steadily, this trend is expected to be outpaced by increasing demand.

In Nigeria, for instance, responsible maritime players such as Nigeria LNG, which have an interest of seafarers at heart, have been investing heavily in the development of quality seamen to compete in the global shipping industry.

The NLNG says it’s on course to achieving its target of ensuring that its workforce, including seafarers on board its vessels, are 100 percent Nigerians in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Content Act of 2010.

Currently, NLNG Ship Management Limited (NSML), a subsidiary of the NLNG, has achieved 83 percent of its Nigerianisation target, according to its officials.

Local Content Act is a regulatory act known as the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act, which was introduced in 2010. The policy was designed to build the capacity of indigenous firms and to provide more opportunities for indigenous participation in business and value addition.

Eyono Fatayi-Williams, general manager, External Relations and Sustainable Development of NLNG, who spoke to newsmen in Lagos recently, said that as of December 2019, the company had in its employment list, about 661 competent and professional seafarers as employees.

The number, according to her, spreads across 297 officers, 329 ratings, and 35 share-based personnel.

Nigeria LNG has two subsidiaries that play actively in the nation’s shipping business and they are Bonny Gas Transport Limited (BGT) and NSML. NLNG has a total of 23 vessels in its fleet, 13 of which are owned by BGT.

Presently, NSML’s Fleet Management department manages 11 LNG ships including seven steam and four Dual Fuel Diesel Electric ships owned by BGT. It ensures the vessels are operated in line with flag state, class, and the global maritime industry requirements. NSML ensures that these vessels are sea- and cargo-worthy at all times, thereby ensuring that NLNG achieves its aims of delivering cargoes safely and reliably to its customers globally.

“NSML is the biggest employer of Nigerian seafarers on board its 13 NLNG-owned carrier ships. We have trained hundreds of seagoing officers, some to the level of captains and chief engineers,” Fatayi-Williams disclosed.

Continuing, she said,  “NSML, which initially was set up as a manning outfit in 2010, metamorphosed into an international maritime service company that is providing world-class services in vessel management, crew management, administration, terminal management and maritime training including projects and consultancy.”

Giving further insight, she stated that NLNG and its shareholders agreed on a Nigerianisation scheme in 1997, but the agreement was revisited and updated in 2004.

“The objective of the scheme, which was to Nigeranise the company’s workforce, was achieved in 2012. It started by recruiting Higher National Diploma graduates and training them as technicians and operators. This was a deliberate policy to enable the relatively young minds to imbibe the skills, work culture, discipline and professionalism that the business requires,” he stated.

NLNG, she said, also instituted a staff training and development drive for different cadres of technical staff to help them acquire the requisite skills and competence needed for management, supervisory and to hold operational positions in the company. “The company continues to recruit young engineers and other technical staff, as part of this initiative,” she also added.

On the economic impact of NLNG’s operations on the Nigerian economy, Fatayi-Williams pointed out that NLNG provides more than 2,000 jobs each construction year. “Overall, the major sub-contractors employed about 18,000 Nigerians in technical jobs in the Base Project.

“Through each Nigerian Content plan for its contracts, NLNG has promoted the development and employment of Nigerian manpower. For instance, 600 Nigerians were trained in Nigeria and at the contractors’ (Hyundai and Samsung) shipyards in Korea as part of the Nigerian Content deliverables tied to the construction of six new LNG vessels by BGT, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NLNG,” she stated.

In the end, those 600 Nigerians, with enhanced skills in welding, hull assembly, pipe fitting, electrical, mechanical, painting, and ship design joined the nation’s workforce, providing a support base for technology transfer and industrialisation.

Determined to also ensure that Nigerian seafarers play role in Nigerian and global shipping communities, Nigeria LNG invested in the building of Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCOE), a one-stop maritime consulting and training outfit set up to provide marine and shipping technical services, maritime training, maritime project management and maritime consultancy for NSML, NLNG, and for the wider maritime industry.

Situated on Bonny Island in River State, the centre has national and international accreditations including the NIMASA accreditation as a Maritime Training Institute (MTI) and accreditation to conduct STCW courses.

Others include the Marshall Islands Flag Administration accreditation to conduct STCW and seafarers’ training courses; DNV-GL accredited Maritime Simulator Centre and Maritime Training Centre and the ISO 9001:2015 by DNV-GL.

In addition, NLNG has, over the years, supported the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, to train manpower for the industry.

First, NLNG engaged Warsash Maritime Academy, Southampton to review the Nigerian academy’s STCW 95 courses. With this, Warsash Maritime Academy facilitated the accreditation process of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, to enable them to issue MCA-approved certificates.

The cost for these projects which includes purchase, installation, and test-running equipment for the Academy was fully borne by Nigeria LNG limited.

Furthermore, NLNG also spent over US$100,000 on equipment, besides sponsorship of four lecturers and a Life Craft Technician to the United Kingdom for training. In 2010, NLNG made a donation worth N40 million to the academy to facilitate the training of officers in Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boat (PSCRB).

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