By Stephen Ubanna
Between January, 2019, and now, past past and present Management of the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had intensified effort in securing sea time berths for Cadets trained under the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme , NSP. Sea time is a term that is very important in a Seafarers Prpfesional life.
Maritime experts had defined a Sea time ‘’as the total time spent by a Cadet working on a vessel at sea, which is not standstill but actively sailing for cargo transportation’’. Indeed, it was actually a document that was said to have been provided by the ship Chief Engineer and Captain, to the Seafarer, endorsing that the seafarer has sailed on the ship for a particular period of time.
NIMASA sources told The Value News that the document contains the details of the ship including name, International Maritime Organisation, IMO number, Tonnage, and Engine particulars. The document is also expected to bear the ship’s official stamp and master’s signature to prove the authentication. This is in addition to carrying the remarks on the behavior and Professionalism of the seafarer for the period spent on- board the vessel. Note that a seafarer could have two –three sea time Certificates from one ship.
Given the importance attached to the Cadets sea time training , President Muhammadu Buhari, was said to have approved $454,000, for the Maritime Regulatory agency trained NSDP Cadets. To ensure the success of the training programme, the government was said to have also appointed a Consultant, Sweets Marine, to Coordinate the sea time training project. That much was said to have been made known by Rotimi Amechi, minister of Transport .
The minister had said that the objectives of the Consultancy training services is to build a capacity for the NIMASA trained NSDP Cadets ‘’to take over the lucrative jobs available in the nation’s maritime sector , that is presently dominated by foreign seafarers, particular, the Philippine seafarers.
Insider sources told The Magazine that over 1000 Nigerian seafarers have graduated from different maritime schools across the globe but are yet to obtain the requisite Certificate of Competency required of them, so as to be gainfully employed as Officers and Masters on board ships.
The approval of $454,000 for the sea time training of the NIMASA Cadets under the NSDP, by the Kastina state born Nigerian President may have encouraged Bashir Jamoh,, the agency Director General and his Management Team, to become more aggressive in making effort to secure the sea time training for the Cadets in spite of the limitations posed by the Wuhan Town in the Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID19. The agency was said to have secured a three- month extension for the 400 Nigerian Cadets currently undertaking sea time in different parts of the world.
The three –month, sea tme training that may lead to the award of Certificate of Cpetency, CoC, to beneficiaries, according to Jamoh, the NIMASA ,boss ‘’was extended for another three months in the first instance to enable to the seafarers complete their training amid the global lockdowns caused by the COVID 19 pandemic’’.
Given an inside information of the efforts that had been made by the agency under his close watch since the outbreak of the disease on March 23, 2020, and the subsequent lockdowns that followed to secure sea time opportunities for a good number of the trained Cadets across the globe, he disclosed that over 550 of the seafarers are in various countries for the three-month programme that would lead to the award of the CoC to the beneficiaries.
Insider sources told The Magazine that the three-month extension had come with additional cost. Notwithstanding the cost implication of extending the sea time training, an elated Jamoh, had said that the agency ‘’is looking to extend to extend it further as the agency continue to monitor the pandemic and how it affects the sea time training programme.
Perhaps to monitor the Cadets and guard against anything that could keep them stranded in any of the countries where they are undertaking the sea time training, the agency officials were said to have been in constant touch with the Nigerian Embassies in the beneficiaries host countries as well as the Cadets and their leaders who were said to be giving them feedbacks from the Cadets on how the sea time training is progressing.
Jamoh, the NIASA, Director General, who could not hide his feelings had said that ‘’the feedbacks from the Cadets and their Leaders from the various countries across the world where they are undertaking the sea time training have been very encouraging’’. He observed that the major problem of Cadets sea time training the world over which is the pandemic was gradually being resolved. This may have informed why another set of the NSDP Cadets had been approved for sea time training, but their enrolment may have been put on hold till thelobal pandemic is resolved.
Not many people were surprised that Jamoh, the NIMASA, helmsman, and his Management Team, have taken the sea time training of the NSDP Cadets to another level in the country as it is in line with the global training standards allowed by the IMO. It is no record that that the Buhari Administration at the early years of the Peterside tenure in NIMASA earmarked N 3 billion to provide sea time training for 300 seafarers on-board International vessels under the NSDP, in 2019. They were Cadets who were said to have graduated from the Arab Academy of science, Technology and Maritime Transport, Alexandria, Egypt, South Shield Marine school South Tyneside College, United Kingdom including the Cadets trained, Philippines . The UK marine institution was said to have provided sea time training to 502 Cadets in various fields of Marine Engineering and Nautical science.
It was gathered that the cost of sponsoring A Cadet in the sea time training was $28,000 at the Arab Academy alone. Maritime analysts believe that the cost could have been much lower if the trainings were done in a Nigerian International ocean going vessel but there are no such vessels, meaning that the Cadets would continue undergo their sea time training with International ocean going vessels.
A top official of the agency who spoke to The Magazine disclosed that it is not the funds for the sea time training that is the problem but lack of the Nigeria flagged vessels going on the International waters. The NIMASA official was emphatic when he said, ‘’ the biggest challenge that country have at present was that it does not have ocean going vessels owned by Nigerians that could be used in providing sea time training for the Cadets.
Philip Kyanet, a Deputy Director and the agency, Head, Corporate Communications, had said that the NSDP, which had been churning out the Cadets was initiated in 2008 to deal with the dearth of trained and Certified seafarers in the nation’s maritime sector dominated by foreign seafarers. The NIMASA, spokesperson hinted that ‘’so far the programme has graduated over 2,000 Cadets, stating that many of them have undergone sea time training and are currently `in the employ of various International shipping Lines.
Note that until his removal from last March, which marked the expiration of his first four years in office, by President Muhammadu Buhari, Peterside, the then Director General of the agency had said that no fewer than 500 seafarers would be placed on various vessels in January,2019 , to under go the mandatory sea time training .
It could not be ascertained whether he was able to accomplish his plan. He was said to have also said that the agency had helped 3000 of the NSDP Cadets to gain full employment in various shipping Companies which have ocean going vessels sailing in Nigerian waters.
Given the call on shipping Lines to prove the sea time training for the Nigerian seafarers, the United Arab Shipping Line was said to have agreed to offer 100 nigeria Cadets sea time experience yearly between 2019 and 2024. NIMASA and the United Arab Shipping Line , were said to have entered a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, to ensure proper implementation of the deal.
The agency was said to have also signed an MoU with the maritime Academy of India for on –board sea time training of the Cadets of the NSDP. The India Maritime Academy, according to the erstwhile , Director General of NIMASA, had provided sea time training to 60 Nigerian Cadets . The 60 Cadets were said to have been provided with sea time training in three batches of 20 each.
Going by the steps already taken by the present Management of NIMASA, to sponsor more Cadets under the NSDP, Maritime analysts are optimistic that in the next four years Nigerian trained seafarers would dominate the nation’s maritime sector.