Over 5,000 seamen who have completed academic programmes at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron are awaiting the compulsory sea time training without which they cannot be certified as sea men.
The revelation came as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is considering scrapping the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), a special purpose vehicle designed to address the dearth of sailors in Nigeria.
But the plan has been rejected by shipping operators who stated that although the NSDP is a stop-gap measure, the backlog of cadets should be cleared before the programme is scrapped.
Engr. Rotimi Fashakin, NIMASA’s Executive Director, Marine and Operations, had revealed the plan to discontinue the programme during the 2018 Passing-Out Parade and graduation ceremony of the Maritime Academy in Oron.
Fashakin also said the NSDP programme was not meant to be a permanent one, adding that emphasis will now be on sea time training for seafarers that are yet to get such training. “You will understand clearly that the NSDP programme has been an interventionist programme, it was not meant to be a permanent feature of the maritime structure in the country. Be that as it may, it means that at one time or the other, we will begin to wind down on it and concentrate on ensuring sea time for those that need.
Noting that about 5,000 seafarers are still waiting for their sea time training, Fashakin said “that is where the emphasis shall be so that Nigeria can reap the benefits of merchant marine”.
But the President of Nigeria Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) Captain Joseph Ahodeha, said that the NSDP has failed in its objective to produce quality seafarers. Ahodeha also said that the backlog of seafarers that have not had sea time experience should be dealt with before scrapping the programme.
“The NSDP programme has failed, there is no need to send cadets abroad for training anymore. They need to clear the backlog before they think of scrapping the programme. Maritime training was never meant to be mass production of cadets without proper arrangement for their sea time training. But first of all, they must clear the backlog they created”.
Also a one-time Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Adebayo Sarumi, said scrapping NSDP should be a gradual process. His view was shared by a lecturer at the Academy, Engr Richard Owolabi, who suggested that half of what is spent on the NSDP cadets should be used to purchase a training vessel so as to give the cadets the compulsory sea time training.