June 25, every year is marked as the Day of the Seafarer. The annual and international event is coordinated by the International Maritime Organisation. In this interview, Capt Caleb Danladi explains why Nigeria needs a policy on Seafaring among other issues.
Why Do Seafarers Matter?
This year, the theme of World Seafarers Day is “A Fair Future for Seafarers”. The theme will recognize the unique contribution made by seafarers from all over the world to international trade, the global economy, and civil society. Seafarers matter because world trade and globalization depend on Seafarers. About 90 % of global trade is transported by ships. 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 food you eat, the clothes you wear, the fuel you used in transportation are all transported by ships. The cars you drive, the Chinese phones you used, the apple laptop you used are all possible because of seafarers. Secondly, not everyone can do the job of seafarers. The training of seafarers is long and can be challenging. The need to stay away from family for long periods, being away without communication with family, friends, and relation can be challenging. Seafarers are under pressure to deliver everything as planned. This level of commitment calls for honors. Lastly, the Seafarers matter because of their commitment to saving lives at sea. If you look at the ongoing migrant issues in the Mediterranean Sea and other parts of the world where migrants are faced with imminent danger and all sorts of emergencies. Seafarers are constantly engaged to rescue and provide humanitarian relief before the arrival of appropriate authorities. If a vessel is in distress at sea, the vessel in the vicinity will always be there to render assistant. This is evident in the recent award to Seafarers by Lloyds List for the role of Seafarers in migrant rescue. The award recognizes the selfless effort of the thousands of Seafarers that have come to the rescue of migrants and refugees. According to the recent research by the associated press, more than 800 migrants were rescued at sea heading to Italy alone by Seafarers.
Is there improvement in the seafarer’s plight in Nigeria?
There are numerous challenges facing seafaring in Nigeria. These range from lack of training berths for cadets, shortage of qualified Seafarers, poor working conditions, abandonment where the salaries and welfare of seafarers are the least of the shipowner. Recently, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety agency have embarked on the periodic review of the Seafarers training schedule to align with international standards. In terms of improvement, effort must be made to improve the working condition of seafarers. This will attract a lot of young school leavers for a Seafaring career.
Are Seafarers dispensable?
Seafarers are indispensable, they are essential to shipping and essential to the world. Seafarers are indispensable to the daily lives of people. During the outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Seafarers are on the frontline of the pandemic, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food, fuel, medicine, and medical supplies. About 90 percent of global trade is transported by ships, these ships need skilled Seafarers to operate, maintain and repair. As you can see Seafarers are indispensable in sustaining the global supply chain.
How can Nigeria get it right when it comes to Seafarer business?
The shipping Industry of any country needs a large pool of trained and experienced Seafarers to manned the ships and to fill a range of Port and marine-related jobs. There is also a great need for trained instructors and researchers in the maritime field. Inspection of ships is carried out by ship inspectors; these inspectors are trained maritime personnel or Ex Seafarers. Nigeria can get it right by developing a master plan for recruitment, training, and certification of Seafarers to aligned with global practice. Secondly, the Government need to come up with a policy that will improve the working condition of seafarers by setting a minimum standard for recruitment, welfare, and remuneration. Nigerian Government needs a comprehensive statistic of Nigerian Seafarers to describe accurately the present, predict the future, and make a decision based on current data. They should develop a comprehensive long-term career development plan and strategy for Nigerian seafarers and set out a high-level vision for its future. The UK Government has recently launched a Maritime 2050 people route plan. The Nigerian Government should ensure the strict implementation and enforcement of the 2003 Cabotage Act.
Where is the place of women in the seafarer business?
It is a known fact that there are fewer women in the industry, shipping is one of those industries which has the lowest number of women workforces. Looking at the latest statistics, women represent only 2 percent of the world’s 1.2 million Seafarers and 94 percent of the female are working in the cruise industry. In Nigeria, only 9.3 % of Nigerian registered Seafarers are women. I will blame these statistics on the traditional mindset that shipping is a male-dominated industry. Is high time we change these statistics and support a female Seafaring career in Nigeria who makes up about 50% of our population. A lot of effort is required to make the industry move forward and support women to achieve a greater representation. Measures such as mentoring, sponsored training for young aspiring female Seafarers, career open day, and campaign against gender discrimination will go a long way in promoting Female Seafaring in Nigeria.
What is your advise to the African authorities, specifically, the Nigerian government on the seafarers business?
My advice is for the federal government, the Maritime community, and the stakeholders in the Maritime sector is to support Seafarer’s development program. Efforts must be made to improve the working condition of Seafarers to aligned with the theme for 2021 World Seafarers Day “Seafarers Matter”. The Federal Government should acquire training ships that will enable cadets to gather their mandatory sea training in line with the requirements for the Standard of Training, Certification, and watchkeeping (STCW) 1995 as amended in 2010. The government should develop and implement policies that will improve the working condition of Seafarers and close the gender gap by encouraging women to go into Seafaring careers and support their ambition. Lastly, the Government should develop and maintain a comprehensive database for all the Seafarers in the country for decision making.