• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Why Nigerian seafarers fail to secure jobs onboard foreign ships

FESAN decries poor number of registered female seafarers in Nigeria

Seafarers holding Nigerian licenses are finding it difficult to secure job opportunities onboard foreign ships compared to their peers from other countries.

Speaking during a live conversation with Maritime TV Africa recently, Emmanuel Jeremiah, a seafarer, said for a seafarer to work onboard a foreign vessel, that ship’s flag state must have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the seafarer’s country of licensure.

Leading maritime nations with high capacity in producing seafarers have prioritised having MoUs with top shipping nations to ensure their seafarers have the opportunity to secure good jobs but in Nigeria, the narrative is different.

“In 2018, after our studies in Ghana, we realised that most of our colleagues especially Cameroonian and Ghanaian license holders ended up getting employment onboard foreign oceangoing vessels while we Nigerians ended up with opportunities within the nation’s territorial waters.

“When we asked the foreign liners why they weren’t taking Nigerians, they complained about the Nigerian image in the international community, the absence of a MoU with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and the complications in getting passports,” he explained.

Jeremiah disclosed that Ghana has a MoU with over 30 shipping nations, and it gives Ghanaian license holders an advantage.

“Ghana recently sealed an MoU with the United Kingdom and they already had agreements with Malta, Singapore, and others. Despite being the giant of Africa and receiving vessels from top shipping nations, Nigeria doesn’t have an MoU with these countries, which is why ships flagged by these countries are rejecting Nigerian license holders from being onboard their vessels. Nigeria can equally reach MoU with Maersk Line, PIL to prioritise Nigerian cadets,” Jeremiah said.

He said that Near Coastal Voyage (NCV) and less than 3000 GRT Limitations should be scrapped from the Officer of the Watch (OOW) licensed by NIMASA because it isn’t applicable anywhere in the world.

“We have been encouraging the government to follow the standards globally because OOW shouldn’t have a limitation. The only difference in class is that those who have HND or BSc get exempted from educational courses while those with ND and years of experience as ratings do both the educational and professional courses,” he said.

Jeremiah said Nigerian seafarers are poorly paid and unfairly treated. He said Ghana recently started giving Nigerian seafarers NCV on management licenses aside from the OOW due to the influx of Nigerian seafarers into Ghana for training and unlimited licenses.

“We have started telling our members to stop going to Ghana for training. It costs a minimum of about N15 million, which is about $10,000, to get an OOW or Class 2 certificate in Ghana. While the OOW is still unlimited, the Class 2 that used to be unlimited now has NCV limitation, but we have told our members not to spend this much only to end up being limited.

“In Nigeria, there are no insurance packages for seafarers but abroad it is a top priority. I signed insurance with my current employer before commencing work. While working in Nigeria, I never saw my insurance papers, let alone signed them,” Jeremiah, who works onboard an American vessel said while comparing the practices of the seafaring profession in Nigeria to the Western countries, Emmanuel said.

Citing an example, he said, that salaries paid to seafarers working in Nigeria are poor yet the cost of the training, which is in dollars, keeps increasing.

The poor remuneration of Nigerian seafarers currently makes it difficult for them to renew their licenses via training that is charged in dollars globally.