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NSML: Driving sustainable shipping to transform Nigeria’s maritime sector

As a maritime nation, Nigeria is yet to take its rightful place in the comity of maritime nations. This is because the nation’s inland and international shipping business is presently dominated by both foreign-owned and crewed ships, leaving very little to Nigerian-owned vessels and seafarers, despite the existence of Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act as well as Local Content Act.

These acts were enacted with the aim of restricting the use of foreign vessels to trade in and out of Nigeria, and promote the development of indigenous tonnage for the purpose of job creation.

Years down the line, Nigerian economy still loses billions of dollars annually as freight cost paid on import and export cargoes to foreign-owned ships, while many Nigerian seafarers roam the streets without well-paid employment. Even young cadets that want to take up a career in shipping find it difficult to get onboard training.

But, with mindset on addressing some of these fundamental challenges to enable Nigeria become a proud maritime nation, the NLNG Ship Management Limited (NSML), a subsidiary of Nigeria LNG, incorporated as a private limited liability company on October 9, 2008 and commenced full operations initially as a ship manning outfit in August 2010, has stepped in.

NSML has evolved from a purely manning company into an international maritime services company, providing a wide range of top-notch maritime and shipping services which include – manning, fleet management, training, terminal management, maritime consultancy and project management.

The company, which has about 11 Bonny Gas Transport (BGT) vessels under its management, presently moves Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) products from Nigeria to various continents of the world including USA, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa.

In the last 10 years of its existence, the company has been working in the following ways towards changing the narrative of Nigeria shipping business for the benefit of Nigerians.

Nigerianisation strategy

NSML came up with ‘Nigerianisation’ strategy, which aims at developing, engaging and promoting Nigerian seafarers to ensure that the majority of people on its vessels are Nigerians. This started because NSML recognised that as a Nigerian company playing in Nigeria, there is need to create opportunities for Nigerians.

Initially, NSML vessels were managed and manned by foreigners, but the idea was to train Nigerians to slowly take over the management of NSML vessels. In the beginning, it had about 16 Nigerian officers but now, there are almost about 300 Nigerian officers.

In addition, 100 percent of the ratings onboard NSML vessels are Nigerians and more than 60 percent of officers onboard those vessels are Nigerians.

“We have made tremendous progress in satisfying that objective. A lot of people have gone through our vessels both in terms of training and work, and they have developed the capacity that enabled them to serve in vessels all over the world,” said Abdul-Kadir K. Ahmed, managing director/CEO of NSML, during an interactive session with newsmen in Lagos recently.

Read Also: Nigeria’s maritime industry: Prioritizing it for more investment and Growth

Presently, NSML had achieved 83 percent Nigerianisation strategy onboard its vessels as at 2020, but the target is to get to 100 percent by 2022.

Ahmed however, said that the management of NSML recognises the fact that shipping is an international business, making it expedient to have some mixture of foreign seafarers onboard.

“This was why the company wants to keep its target at 85 percent Nigerians and 15 percent foreign seafarers to have that cultural mix and to be able to benefit from what is happening all over the world,” he disclosed.

As the largest employer of qualified Nigerian seafarers, NSML today has about 700 Nigerians on its employment list. They are 286 officers, 336 ratings, and 61 shore staff that provide crew services to all BGT vessels as well as two vessels managed by Northern Marine management.

Some of the outstanding Nigerian mariners working with NSML include Yusuf Hambal, first Nigerian LNG vessel Captain; Adewale Adejuwon, first Nigerian deputy fleet manager; Ogadimma Nwankwo, Maritime Engineer Cadet of the Year 2008 at Warsash Maritime Academy and Abiodun Laleye, first Nigerian LNG Dual Fuel Diesel Electric (DFDE) ship Captain, among others.

Support to Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron

Nigeria LNG as a group has provided lots of support to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron through technical equipment, training and connection with international reputable maritime institutions. This enables the building of the capacity that would ensure that the certification from the Academy is acceptable internationally.

Beyond being employed in Nigeria, NSML is also providing an avenue for training and certification of Nigerian seafarers to not just to be employed in Nigeria but globally. All projections have shown that the shipping industry is actually going through manpower shortage because the growth of the industry has led to significant shortage in manpower supply.

“Nigeria needs to have that seafaring culture in order to end up like India, Ukraine and the Philippines because the country is endowed with people and capacity,” said Ahmed.

“So, if we can really work to ensure that certifications provided by MAN Oron are acceptable globally, then, we would be providing an opportunity for Nigerians to go into seafaring and to be accepted internationally,” he added.

Seatime training for cadets

Training of cadets, no doubt, has been a very big challenge not just in Nigeria but globally because beyond going through maritime academies, cadets need seatime training to be able to get the certification.

This is why NSML started giving cadets opportunities to sail on board in order to get their final certification. So far, over 100 cadets have gone through NSML vessels to acquire their seatime certification.

“We are working with NIMASA under the Seafarers Continuous Development Programme to create opportunity for qualified seafarers that have gone through Maritime Academies to get the required seatime training in order to get their certification,” Ahmed disclosed.

Ahmed, who assured that NSML would continue to absorb seafarers within the limit of its requirement, said it hoped that the industry continues to grow, and NSML Alumni would be able to get a better job within the Nigerian maritime industry.

Maritime Centre of Excellence

In seafaring, Maritime institutions such as MAN Oron and others in various countries of the world provide basic qualification, including the foundational training required by cadets to be certified as a seafarer, while the Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCOE) provides the additional step forward.

MCOE is a one-stop maritime consulting and training outfit set up to provide marine and shipping technical service, maritime training, maritime project management.

“The people we attract are seafarers who have gone through the foundation, acquire the Certificate of Competency and Proficiency, and require additional knowledge to upgrade their skill levels to manage and operate vessels globally. We are PhD-giving institution,” Ahmed said.

Shipping industry, according to him, has undergone tremendous technological changes, moving from steamship to Dual Fuel Diesel Electric (DFDE). This means that a seafarer with foundational training would also need additional skills to be able to manage these new technologies that are coming into the equation, and that is what MCOE provides.

BusinessDay search shows that some of the facilities at MCOE include Full Mission Bridge Simulator; Full Mission Engine Simulator; Vessel Traffic Information Management System (VTIMS); Liquid Cargo Operation Simulator (LICOS); Multipurpose ECDIS/GMDSS and mini-bridge simulators.

Clean water initiative

As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), NSML has started a ‘Clean Water Initiative,’ aimed at creating awareness, advocacy and action on the effects of plastics, debris and other maritime litters on the waterways in Nigeria.

The initiative, which is an integral part of NSML’s corporate Brand Management Plan, also aims to tackle the devastating effects of plastics on the aquatic ecosystem, and the global maritime environment.

“The initial areas of coverage were NSML’s primary areas of operation – the NLNG Terminal in Bonny, as well as the ISB/OSB Jetty in Port-Harcourt. The plan was to ensure proper clean-up and maintenance of the waterways at these areas of operations before extending to inland waterways in Rivers State; and national space,” Ahmed said.

Launched in September 2020 to commemorate the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) 2020 World Maritime Day in line with the theme – ‘Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet,’ NSML Terminal Services team kick-started the campaign by organising a clean-up exercise of the NLNG Bonny waterfront, which was a huge success.

Above all, in the last decade of its operations, NSML’s ultimate goal was to develop the capacity of the regulatory agency in Nigeria to ensure that Nigerian flagged vessels are accepted wherever it goes. This will go a long way to changing the narrative in Nigerian shipping industry.

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