Barely 24 hours of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) flagged off sea time training of cadets under the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), seafarers fraternity has cautioned the agency to look inward to empower and encourage local shipping capacity in Nigeria.
Deputy Secretary General of the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Comrade John Okpono, in a chat with Business and Maritime West Africa, Tuesday expressed concern over the development, stating that the maritime academies in Nigeria must be carried along to meet international standards despite the sea time training of cadets abroad.
Okpono maintained that disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF) was paramount in the nation's shipping sector as it is a vehicle for addressing the shortfalls affecting the training of cadets on sea time experience.
The scribe noted that training of cadets under the NSDP would cost the federal government huge sums of money running to billions of naira, hence the acquisition of ships through CVFF can save cost.
Okpono lamented that the 40 year-old Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron, Akwa Ibom State, and the School of Oceanography in Victoria Island, Lagos can favourably compete with the institutions engaged by the government on sea time programme if properly catered for.
Okpono said government should empower private maritime academies in a bid to assist in shipping development in the country, pointing out that Nigeria’s private maritime school can change the fortune of the sector through government support .
On the huge funds sunk into the NSDP scheme, he noted that "it is commendable that NIMASA has finally provided sea time training for cadets but we must also advise them that the capital flight is relatively too high when we consider the cost of air ticket, accommodation, feeding and training proper.
"If the government can encourage and empower our local maritime schools, they could help reduce such huge cost in training of cadets.
"We will continue to appeal to the government to disburse CVFF to Nigerian ship owners for them to acquire vessels and train our own youths.
"Government must also take care of the private academies too because these schools have what it takes to compete favourably with other international institutions only if the federal government understands what shipping is all about ", Okpono said.