Soan Emergence Rekindles Hope For Local Seatime Training | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Business, Maritime

Soan Emergence Rekindles Hope For Local Seatime Training

Posted: May 1, 2015 at 3:39 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Andrew Airahuobhor


Nigerian cadets stuck in their seafaring careers due to lack of sea time training now have a reason to be upbeat.  Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), a new association unveiled last week, has donated 100 training berths to support Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP).

President of SOAN, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun

President of SOAN, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun

President of SOAN, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun disclosed this at the weekend during the unveiling of the new group, whose mission is to improve the maritime and shipping industry to the benefit of SOAN members, stakeholders, the industry and the Country at large.

“We have decided as first step to put together a hundred training berths on our ships to NIMASA to support their NSDP programme, and at the appropriate time engage authorities in NIMASA to work out the modalities,” Ogbeifun said, noting that the “ships are there.”

According to him, if some of the children NIMASA are sending abroad to look for sea time opportunity can be helped in the country by SOAN, “I think we are taking the first step towards improving our maritime industry.”

He said, “We don’t intend to stop there, we are also making very strong recommendations we intend to send to government for the establishment of a Nigerian Merchant Navy Training Board that will articulate the training of our seafarers between the shipowners and accredited maritime institutions in our country.

“That board will be constituted by people from the public and private sector to monitor the growth and development of our seafarers. These are some of the elaborate plans which we will be unfolding gradually.”

Since the liquidation of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), training of seafarers in Nigeria ceased, leading to the dearth of indigenous seafarers. While those trained by the NNSL in the 1970s were ageing, a vacuum has been created in local maritime manpower.

The over 30 year old Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron, Akwa Ibom State is incapable of fulfilling its aspiration of producing competent manpower for the shipping sector due to myriad of factors, including poor funding and inadequate manpower. This prompted the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to embark on seafarers training abroad resulting in huge capital flight for trainings that can be done in the country.

NSDP has gulped N20 billion in four years for training of 2,500 youths abroad because of a lack of training vessels in the country.

Seatime is critical to the training of seafarers and for obtaining the Certificate of Competency, so a training vessel is necessary for maritime training institutions. Rector of MAN, Mr. Joshua Okpo, admitted that no fewer than 6, 000 cadets of the institution, who had completed their course works nearly 15 years ago, have yet to undertake the IMO recommended sea time training owing to paucity of funds.

The one-year practical training is in compliance with the provisions of the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, STCW, 1978, which requires trained cadets to undertake a 12- month mandatory practical training on board an ocean going vessels.

Oil majors in both the upstream and downstream sectors of the nation’s economy have in recent times been urged to support the development of the nation’s foremost maritime training institution, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State.

Major shipping companies and the oil majors who are users of the services of the end products of this Academy, have the responsibility of ploughing some of their resources back into the institute. They all use the services of ships and the cadets that graduate from the Academy are the ones that sail the ships.

Federal Government is yet to investigate the fate of Nigeria’s last training ship, the MV Trainer.

The story of the last Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) ship known as MV Abuja is a reflection of the culture of impunity that is destroying Nigeria and its people.

A shipping practitioner said the Federal Government will do well to show that it is serious about tackling corruption in the shipping sector by immediately arresting and prosecuting those who contributed to the underdevelopment of the sector and the demise of both NNSL and the Nigeria Unity Line (NUL) through fraudulent practices using the MV Abuja.

NNSL was grounded by the military government of General Sanni Abacha in September 1995, NUL was named its successor and granted a national carrier status. NUL formally commenced operations in July 1996 with Retired Rear Admiral Samuel Atukum named as its Managing Director.

In 1979 when Nigeria returned to democratic rule, NNSL had 26 ships with a combined tonnage of 552,000 deadweight. By 1999, only one of those vessels named MV River Mada remained. The ship was later renamed MV Trainer and was converted to a training vessel for Nigerian cadets. In 1996, while the liquidation of NNSL was ongoing, MV Trainer was sold to Mediterranean Shipping Company, a Greek shipping company registered in Cyprus for US$785,000. The ship was renamed Axion II by its new owners.

In 1998, the then National Maritime Authority (NMA), repurchased the same ship for $4.5 million from Mediterranean Shipping Company and renamed it MV Abuja. Through that transaction, the country had been swindled to the tune of $3.75 million, and possibly more if you factor in other associated costs.

This was the kind of practice that destroyed NNSL and NUL. To date, no one has been prosecuted in connection with the scandalous transaction until MV Abuja was eventually sold for next to nothing and NUL predictably packed up.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Special Fraud Unit of the Nigeria Police Force will do well to open investigation into what has been described as the monumental fraud surrounding the training ship.

Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, said that Nigeria has all it takes to compete favourably with the Asian Tigers and Philippines and indeed surpass their records in the export of maritime labour to the global market.

According to him, the agency currently has over 2, 500 cadet trainees in major maritime training institutions in the United Kingdom, Philippines, Singapore, Egypt and Malaysia, etc under its NSDP, a strategic intervention scheme aimed primarily at addressing the short to medium term manpower needs of the Nigerian maritime industry.

The progamme targets to create a pool of Nigerian seafarers to meet local needs and also help in shoring up the manpower need of the global shipping market and by so doing, Nigeria would have made a name for herself as a leading seafarers’ supplier not only in the entire African continent but also among comity of maritime nations.

Available global seafarers’ supply records show that Philippines, with a population of about 77 million people accounts for over 30 per cent of global seafarers requirement by exporting over 300, 000 seafarers from which she earns over $6 billion annually, which is repatriated annually to the Philippines local economy with attendant chains of multiplier effects on the economy.

The NSDP has two window, the first being the 40-60 per cent sponsorship arrangement with some state governments under which the agency bears the 40 per cent of the seafarer training costs while the government of the state of origin of the participant pays 60 per cent.

Under the second window, NIMASA undertakes 100 per cent sponsorship of the cadets, which accounts for over 90 per cent of the entire 2, 500 cadet trainees on which the agency says it has spent over N20 billion between 2011 and the end of 2014 covering school fees, flight and other logistic arrangements and upkeep for the cadets

NIMASA is the only maritime administration across the entire globe, which commits such huge amount of resources in the training of seafarers. In other climes, these training programmes are arranged and funded by the organised Private Sector organisations, which also employ these seafarers on their ships and other crafts, NIMASA boss said.


The Filipino seafarers dominate

Seafarers help keep the Philippine economy afloat with record remittances reaching $3.8 billion in 2010, higher by 12 percent from the amount of money sent by mariners in 2009, according to a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) report.

Aspiring Filipino seamen are required to acquire degrees such as Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation and Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering or basic seaman course from maritime schools.

According to Miguel Angel Rocha, the EVP/COO of CF Sharp Crew Management, Inc., one of the leading manning companies in the Philippines, there are around 80 to 100 maritime schools in the Philippines who offer these degrees. The courses had a three-year curriculum composed of classroom instruction and 12-months on-board training. After the course, the candidates will have to take the seaman’s state board exam.

There are around 280,000 students who graduate from maritime schools every year. In 1996, it was estimated that there were more than 250,000 Filipino seafarers; in 2013, that number has been estimated to have increased to about 460,000.

The Philippines is one of the primary sources of seamen in the global shipping and transport market. Filipino seamen are often recruited to man tankers and sea vessels from countries, including those from Denmark, North America, South America, Europe and Asia, such as Japan, the United States, Panama, Liberia, Cyprus, Bahamas, Jamaica, Greece, Malta, Singapore, Norway and the Republic of Germany.

In 2007, the figure of Filipino seamen overseas was 226,900. Included in the total – according to job function – 31,818 were designated or ranked as seamen; 19,491 as oilers; 17,355 as ordinary seamen; 7,810 as mess men; 7,778 as chief cooks; 7,737 as bosuns; 7,056 as third engineers; 6,599 third mates; and 6,388 as waiters.

Based on the type of ship, 47,782 Filipino seamen were on board passenger-type vessels; 42,356 were on bulk carriers; 31,983 were on container ships; 25,011 were on tankers; 14, 462 were on oil or product tankers; 10,754 were on general cargo ships; 7,502 were on chemical tankers; 6,610 were on tugboats; 5,742 were on pure car carriers; and 3,471 were on gas tankers.