• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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NIMASA and the Nigerian seafarer

NIMASA and the Nigerian seafarer

With this year’s International Maritime Organization (IMO) calendar event, ‘Day of the Seafarer,’ recently celebrated in Nigeria, the efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to improve the working conditions of Nigerian seafarers come under the microscope.

The Day of the Seafarer was established by a resolution adopted at the 2010 Diplomatic Conference in Manila, which aimed to revise the STCW (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping) Convention. Its purpose is to recognize the unique contributions made by seafarers from all over the world to international seaborne trade, the global economy, and civil society as a whole.

Here in Nigeria, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, celebrated the annual Day of the Seafarer on June 25, 2024, with this year’s theme being “Navigating the Future: Safety First.”

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Speaking in support of seafarers at the event, the current NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, highlighted the vital, albeit often underappreciated, role they play in ensuring unhindered global trade, often at great personal cost.

In his words, “Seafarers are the unsung heroes of our global economy. I would even describe them as the lifeblood of international trade. They sacrifice a lot for humanity’s existence as they leave their families for months for our sake. Let us celebrate their resilience, dedication, and the invaluable role they play in our world.”

While successive directors-general of the Agency have publicly pledged their commitment to improving the plight of Nigerian seafarers, the 2024 Day of the Seafarer provides an opportunity to consider the Agency’s track record in addressing the working conditions of Nigerian seafarers through the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) and Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA).

Nigerian Seafarers development programme

In 2008, NIMASA initiated the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) with the sole mandate of training Nigerian youths to become seafarers and naval architects, fulfilling one of the Agency’s core mandates in the area of indigenous maritime capacity building.

The programme was designed to train Nigerian youths up to degree level in Marine Engineering, Nautical Sciences, and Naval Architecture at some of the best Maritime Training Institutions (MTIs) abroad, positioning them to compete effectively in the global maritime industry as a means of developing the Nigerian maritime space.

To date, a total of 2,476 cadets have enrolled in the programme, out of which 979 have graduated and obtained their certificates of competency (COC). Unfortunately, 12 beneficiaries of the programme have passed away over the past 14 years, and 153 other beneficiaries withdrew from the programme during this period.

Most recently, the Agency signed a training agreement with Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Ship Management Limited (NSML) to facilitate Certificate of Competency (CoC) examinations for beneficiaries of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Program (NSDP).

The CoC examination is the final stage of the NSDP training, culminating in the acquisition of the CoC license, which potentially opens the doors of global employment opportunities for the cadets.

Collective bargaining agreement

In terms of lasting policy decision-making aimed at improving working conditions for our seafarers, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), working as part of the National Joint Industrial Council (NJIC), recently introduced a revised minimum wage document for Nigerian seafarers, developed in accordance with the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006.

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The document, covering the period from 2023-2025, is a result of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) involving employers in the maritime sector, the leadership of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), NIMASA and other industry stakeholders.

The agreement involves increases in their wages, allowances, and certain emoluments and benefits, including payment of redundancy and retirement benefits by terminal operators to aged dockworkers, specified allowances to a deceased dockworker’s next of kin, and a pension contribution scheme for dockworkers, among other improvements.

Over time, it is expected that the benefits to Nigerian seafarers and the Nigerian maritime sector from these

twin initiatives facilitated by NIMASA will materialize, thereby justifying the investments and policy efforts currently undertaken by the nation’s apex maritime regulatory agency.