Captain Caleb Danladi Bako is a Master Mariner and Maritime Expert/Researcher. In this interview, he explains how Nigeria can make Seafarers profession more visible, explore the opportunity to empower the youths among other issues.
What could you say about this year’s theme for World Maritime Day?
World Maritime day is celebrated annually to provide and opportunity to focus attention on the importance of shipping and other activities and to emphasize a particular aspect of the work of International Maritime Organization (IMO). The purpose of the day is to appreciate the importance of maritime industry.
The theme for this year’s world maritime day is Seafarers: At the Core of Shipping’s future. The theme seeks to increase the visibility of Seafarers by drawing attention to the role they play now and will continue to play. The theme also seeks to raise awareness of the crucial role played by seafarers in the global trade and provide the opportunity to Focus on seafarers as the people at the heart of shipping.
The international shipping industry is responsible for the carriage of around 90 percent of world trade. Who are the people responsible for this non-stop action? The seafarers are the ones executing it in the real-life aspect. World trade and globalization depend on seafarers.
The outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, causes many countries to imposed lockdown measures to curtail the spread of the virus. This brought a lot of industries to a standstill, disrupted a lot of operations. Within the maritime industry, Seafarers found themselves on the frontline of global operations to ensure the flow of vital goods. Such as food, fuel, and medical supplies.
How could the Nigerian govt secure the future of seafarers in the country?
Nigerian government could secure the future of seafarers through training and career development. Seafarers today are increasingly attracted to sophisticated training, professional development, and good remuneration. Massive investment in Seafarer’s training and development and mentoring are keys to secure the future of Seafarers in Nigeria. Equipping the Seafarers with the right skills and Sea training will secure the future of Nigerian Seafarers.
Secondly, the government needs to ensure that Nigerian Seafarers are employed in a safe and secure environment on ships. The Government should ensure a reasonable working condition for seafarers and ensure that ship owners and manning agents respect the rights of all Seafarers regardless of race, gender, and religion.
Mentorship, coaching, and counseling are important. Maritime organizations, terminal operators, maritime institutions, and maritime agencies need to create greater awareness to young school leavers who are aspiring to a Seagoing career at sea. Mentorship is the key to develop the mind of the young Seafarers.
How could be increasing the visibility of seafarers make the profession any better?
Seafaring is one of the world’s oldest professions.
Increasing the visibility of Seafarers will draw the attention of the public to the invaluable role they play now and will continue to play in the future. Like I said earlier, Seafarers played a crucial role during the outbreak of the COVID 19 Pandemic by supporting the global supply chains. As a result, the United Nations General Assembly designate Seafarers as key workers. key worker designation is crucial to ensure Seafarers can travel to and from ships and will facilitate access to priority vaccination.
Maritime transport accounts for more than 80 percent of world trade. Seafarers are not only responsible for the operations of ships from the loading port to the discharge port but are also responsible for the safe delivery of goods. Increasing the visibility of Seafarers will make government develop policies that will lead to fair treatment of Seafarers, better employment conditions, conducive work environment among others. Also increasing the visibility of Seafarers will help in addressing gender imbalance in maritime industry.
Could you explain/point out some role seafarers play in boosting the country’s economy?
Shipping is an industry that contributes over 90 % to the economy of the world. World trade and globalization depend on Seafarers. As you are aware trade is only good when the product is delivered safely and on time to the receiver/ final consumer. Seafarers ensured the safe delivery of goods to the receiver.
Secondly, the daily lives of people depend on Seafarers. Let me give you a Scenario, the food you eat, the cloth you wear, the petrol you fuel your car, the computer you used has been transported via ships.
Seafarers contribute to the national economy. Look at the Philippines, in 2019 Filipino Seafarers contributed $6.14 billion to the Philippine economy.
What are some of the challenges seafarers and the profession face in the country?
There are so many challenges facing the Seafaring profession in Nigeria. First, lack of training berths for cadets. We have several cadets that have graduated from Maritime training institution and have not completed their mandatory sea service which is a prerequisite to sit for a certificate of competency exams to become a qualified Seafarer.
There is a shortage of qualified Seafarers, some companies have poor working conditions. In some cases, Seafarer’s salary and welfare are the least priority of the ship owners.
How Could these challenges be addressed?
Efforts must be made to acquire training ships for cadetship training. The government needs to enforce the employment of cadets particularly on those vessels that trade in Nigerian waters.
Periodic review of Seafarer’s condition of Service to ensure they aligned with international standards. The government must ensure better welfare package for Seafarers.
The government must address the gender imbalance in the industry.
What are your calls or motivation for your colleagues to keep pushing the course until there is light at the end of the tunnel?
Seafaring is a good profession that offers the opportunity to navigate the sea of the world and to encounter the wonders of the ocean.
I want to advise Seafarers to have a positive trait about self-development, be enthusiasm, and focus. A successful career at Sea always requires a positive attitude towards working, proficiency, continue development, and learning from senior crew members.
A common motivation for Seafarers is renumeration, good welfare and improved working condition. Ship owners should also adopt Seafarer’s retention strategy to motivate Seafarers through better welfare package, bonuses, targeted training, promotion and seafarers’ engagement forum. Seafarers engagement forum will foster better communication between Seafarers and the manning companies.