Determined to keep shipping business moving amid the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, otherwise known as COVID-19, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has extended the validity of statutory and trading certificates for all Nigeria-registered vessels, crew change as well as the Standards of Training Certification and Watch-keeping (STCW) issued by the agency.
“The extensions would enable owners and masters of ships to permit personnel to continue performing their duties in view of the prevailing extraordinary circumstance of the COVID-I9 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown in Nigeria,” stated NIMASA in a Marine Notice issued at weekend, which was signed by the management.
The agency attributed this to the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) circular letter No. 4202/Add5/Rev.1, dated 2nd April 2020, on guidance relating to the certification of seafarers and fishing vessel personnel, which encouraged Flagged States and Port State Authorities to take practical approaches concerning the extension of certificates and endorsements.
According to the notice, IMO in another circular dated 30th March 2020 further called on governments around the world to designate seafarers and marine personnel regardless of nationality as key workers providing essential service, and to grant them necessary exemptions from national travel or movement restriction.
NIMASA further stated that it had also extended the validity of related certificates with expiration dates starting from 1st March 2020 and 1st July 2020 for three months, or until the full resumption of working operations in the agency.
The notice further reads: “Extension of the validity of the STCW certificates, certificates of safety training and certificates of medical fitness issued by the Agency if they would otherwise expire between 1st March 2020 and 1st July 2020 (both dates inclusive), for three months from the expiry date printed/typed on the relevant certificates.”
The agency also extended the validity of other certificates including Certificates of Competency and Certificates of Proficiency, GMDSS radio operator certificate, certificate of safety or certificate of proficiency as a cook.
The notice further stated that the extension would apply to all Nigeria- flagged vessels and seafarers sailing on-board Nigeria- flagged vessels and seafarers with Nigerian Certificate of Competency, who are sailing on foreign flagged ship.
While stating that crew change/travels from and to vessels in Nigeria is subject to obtaining clearance from the Port Health and the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) concerning status on COVID-19, the notice pointed out that whenever the revalidation of the expired certificate is to be carried out, the new validity shall conform with the usual cycle and shall be dated from the original certificate expiry date.
Confirming this, Bashir Jamoh, director-general of NIMASA stated at the weekend on his official twitter handle @ JamohBashir that NIMASA issued a follow-up Marine Notice to extend the validity of various statutory and trading certificates to mitigate potential COVID-19 disruptions on the interests of Nigerian flagged vessels and Seafarers.
According to him, many NIMASA officials would be working remotely during this time even as he added that all hands must be on deck to keep global shipping chain moving.