• Thursday, May 30, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria’s shipping business gets a boost as NIMASA receives first set of NSDP graduates 

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It was a dream come true for the first batch of students who benefitted from the Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) and industry stakeholders who have been anticipating changes in the nation’s maritime sector as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) at the weekend in Lagos received the first set of NSDP cadets who graduated from Arab Maritime University, Egypt.

The 22 graduates, nine of whom studied Marine Engineering while the remaining 13 studied Nautical Science, were the first set of NSDP cadets to have completed both the academic studies and sea-time training and received their Certificates of Competency as required by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

BusinessDay findings reveal that NSDP was funded under three different windows, which include collaborative partnership between states and NIMASA on 60:40 percent arrangement; companies and NIMASA partnership; and total sponsorship by NIMASA. These windows, according to the agency, were created to give opportunity to more beneficiaries because several state governments were yet to key into the programme.  

To industry close watchers, the graduates, who have become professional seafarers by all international standards, would go a long way in bridging the manpower gap that has been confronting Nigeria’s maritime sector in the last two decades owing to ageing pool of master mariners operating in the industry without the younger generation to take over.

Kunle Folarin, chairman, National Seafarers Board, while applauding the gains of the programme, said the maritime industry was pleased to celebrate the first fruit of NSDP, adding that there were doubts as to whether the programme would succeed when it started five years ago. He noted that today, Nigeria has trained seafarers to serve not only Nigeria’s needs but also the needs of other maritime nations. 

“Though The Philippines remits the highest revenue to the economy from seafaring, we believe that this programme will afford Nigeria the opportunity to surpass The Philippines’ record judging by our population potentials,” he stated.

Folarin urged the private sector to borrow a leaf from NIMASA to train more cadets in Nautical Science and Marine Engineering so as to build the needed manpower in the nation’s shipping sector, while also advising the graduates to have the commitment and passion to discharge their duties without compromise for the benefit of Nigeria’s economy as they enter the labour market.

Speaking at the reception dinner, Patrick Akpobolokemi, director general of NIMASA, bemoaned the non-participatory attitude of state governments in the programme. He disclosed that NSDP was created to build composite manpower to handle Nigeria’s cabotage trade and to export seafarers to different parts of the world.

“We aimed at creating pool of seafarers to address the manpower challenge facing the maritime sector over the last two decades despite the fact that it takes huge resources to train cadets. And I see Nigerians dominating the world in the near future in the area of providing human capacity in the maritime industry. This will position Nigerian maritime to compete favourably with countries like The Philippines that currently control seafaring market,” he said.

“We were motivated by the need to move Nigerian youths from being involved in social vices to taking over Nigeria’s local trade from foreign ship owners. Sea-time training is also embedded in the NSDP and NIMASA is committed to providing resources to ensure that every cadet on this programme gets sea-time training,” he added.  

Akpobolokemi, however, revealed that Nigeria was currently doing a lot to boost cabotage trade and enable Nigerians take over the business from the foreigners.

“Recently, we have been silently pushing many Nigerians to gain jobs in cabotage, and with such development, employment opportunities would be made available for many of the NSDP graduates. And we are going to do this with subtle radicalism,” he said.    

The NIMASA boss urged states that have not keyed into the programme to take advantage of the opportunities provided by NSDP to train many of their youths, adding, however, that the agency would not derail in spending tens of billions in the training of Nigerian youths.

On the role Nigerian Maritime University (NMU) being built by the agency to advance the cause of building manpower in the nation’s maritime sector, Akpobolokemi said when completed, it would compete with other notable universities in the world in terms of infrastructure, academic content and sea-time training.

Irene Macfoy, assistant director, NSDP unit of NIMASA, in her welcome address said the first cadets started their academic session in 2010, while about 2,505 cadets were currently being trained in different countries of the world under the programme.

She said the vision of NSDP had succeeded beyond the expectations of industry stakeholders judging from the challenges of dealing with youths from different backgrounds which confronted the agency at the inception of the programme. 

The first batch of cadets, according to her, was ready to undertake the National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) scheme before proceeding into the labour market. 

Raphael Faboro, overall best student from the batch, lauded NIMASA for creating the programme for the benefit of Nigerian youths. He also pleaded with both federal and state governments to continue to sponsor youths on the programme so as to build sufficient capacity for the nation’s maritime sector.

Faboro assured Nigerians that the graduates would put their skills into use for the development of Nigeria’s shipping business as well as the growth of the economy at large.

Uzoamaka Anagor