Story By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
The Merchant Navy Directorate (MND) has called on the federal government to urgently address the lingering issue of unemployment among seafarers, considering the pivotal role they play in the shipping sector.
And to provide a platform for addressing the challenges facing merchant navy officers, a Sailors’ Night has been introduced during which policy options for improving the fortunes of local seafarers will be evaluated.
At the first ever Sailors’ Night in Lagos, director of the MND, Rear Admiral Godwin Ombo (rtd), said the group’s agenda will focus on maritime professional competence, ethics and good conduct, discipline and the establishment of worthwhile seafaring legacies in line with global best practices.
He said the Merchant Navy Directorate was established under the aegis of the Society of Nigerian Mariners (SNM) with full approval by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and has remained an advocate of the continuous development of seafarers as well as their rights and well-being.
“It is pertinent to note that the MND was established to promote professionalism of seafarers and put in place a data base of the Nigerian Merchant Navy personnel,” Ombo stated. He said the MND which has been in existence since 1917 has maintained a pride of place in the Nigerian maritime sector.
It has been working with the Chaplain domiciled at St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Apapa to creditably and effectively run a seafarers’ mission in Nigeria. He regretted that the Seafarers’ Mission in Nigeria has been abandoned for many years.
Speaking to Business and Maritime West Africa, the Secretary General of the Merchant Navy Directorate, Capt Alfred Oluwasegun, said: “Basically, what we are doing is to flag off the Sailors’ Night in Nigeria which has not been in existence before. We are officially telling people that the Merchant Navy Directorate is now out to restore the glory of Nigerian seafarers. This is to emphasize the need to remedy the unemployment problem seafarers are facing in Nigeria.”
On the distinction between the traditional navy and merchant navy, he explained that the word ‘navy’ means ‘ship’. Both Merchant and the Nigerian Navy belong to Navy. “We have the sea soldiers and the seafarers. The regimental name of the seafarers is merchant navy while the sea soldiers are the Nigerian Navy. They (the navy) are country ship personnel while we are commercial ship personnel. We are both naval personnel.”