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NIMASA tasked on discrimination against Nigerian seafarers’ certificate

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A Marine Engineer, Daniel Ikueyemi, on Saturday urged the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to address the issue of discrimination against the Nigerian Seafarers’ Certificate of Competence (COC).

He made the appeal on an Instagram live programme organised by Mrs Ezinne Azunnah of the MaritimeTvNews, entitled, ”Seafarers’ Certificate of Competence: Quality and Opportunities”.

The Certificate of Competency (COC) is a form of licence every mariner is granted to work on ships.

The certificate ensures that the concerned person has the sufficient knowledge and skills to sail on ocean-going vessels.

According to him, our COC is not strong enough and the issue of discrimination of the COC is a common thing for us.

He added that to ensure that the discrimination stopped, there was the need for NIMASA as the regulator to strengthen the security of the COC to standardise it and prevent it from being forged.

“Other ways to tackle the issue is to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some African countries to ensure seafarers utilise their COC.

“There is a notion that 60 per cent of what is taught does not correlate.

“There is need to check this notion and also look into the curriculum that are being used in the country’s maritime academies,’’ he said.

Ikueyemi also pointed out that the feedback mechanism that existed did not capture seafarers’ experience at sea.

He urged NIMASA to have a plan from point of training to point at which seafarers were employed so that their trade would be harnessed.

Also Capt. Ola Alufa, a Marine Captain and Consultant said that the restriction of the country’s COC had not given seafarers the opportunity to be utilised globally.

According to him, Nigerian seafarers are faced with limitations as regards categorisation and that should be expunged.

Alufa suggested that Nigerian seafarers should be well-employed everywhere and be able to work in vessels.

“The limitation is the categorisation. We do not have trading vessels and we need them now.

“NIMASA has tried as regards the curriculum, experience and examination which is very tough. It is of international standard, we need to encourage our own certificate,” he said

He recommended that the Ministry of Transportation must work hand in hand with NIMASA to write to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to expunge the clause affecting seafarers.

“A lot of seafarers have not yet gone on board a ship before. They just got the certificate from schools but there is no opportunity and this still bounces back to government on the need for training vessels.

“The vessels will give seafarers the experience and certificate to be recognised worldwide,” he said. (NAN)

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Maritime

Exclusive Interview: Izah Ogor,South-South Zonal Coordinator of NSC Speaks on Business in the Eastern Seaports

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Ogor Izah Nigerian Shippers Council

Interview with Ogor Izah, South-South Zonal Co-ordinator, Nigerian Shippers Council

The news of the arrival of the biggest ship to have ever berthed at Nigerian Seaport to us to the office of Izah Ogor, South-South Zonal Coordinator of Nigerian Shippers Council as we sought reactions from stakeholders to the welcome development.

An excited ZC of the port economic regulator, reeled out an avalanche of information as he spoke on a wide range of maritime issues.

FR News: Why do ship operators still prefer Lagos ports over the Eastern Seaports in spite of the loud complains of congestion, gridlock and overstretched facilities?

Izah:  The total port cost of doing business at the Eastern Seaports of Port Harcourt, Onne, Warri and Calabars are quite high making it impossible for some of these stakeholders to make meaningful profit in their businesses. This is why you may be surprised to see people living in Port Harcourt or even people living in Onne preferring to bring in their cargo through Lagos.

This port cost includes various items like unnecessary charges by the MDAs at the ports, frustrations arising from communal interventions, incessant extortions, roadblocks mounted by customs, double charges, piracy, and the issue of the shallowness of the channels.

The infrastructure in these areas are not in their best condition. However, the Onne Port is about the biggest in West Africa. So why are ships not coming there? It is because of the high port costs.

Averagely, by the time your cargo arrives, the total cost could be much higher than if you were to come through Lagos.

FR News: In spite all these issues you have mentioned, especially the much talked about issue of shallow and narrow water channels, the NPA recently celebrated the arrival of the biggest cargo ship to ever berth in a Nigerian seaport. Was this a miracle?

Izah: No, it was not a miracle. It is a response to the yearnings of stakeholders who have long complained of the state of affairs in the ports around here.

You remember that even in the middle of the congestion in Lagos, members of the National Assembly went to Lagos to see things and later advised the government to start diverting vessels to other ports. Progress was being made in this direction before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like you said, two weeks ago, we woke up to the fanfare of the biggest ship ever to berth in any Nigerian port in Onne. This was an attempt by the NPA to assure stakeholders that vessels can actually come into this place.

What happened is this- we’ve been talking about the shallowness of the draft yet the ‘biggest ever’ came in- how?

The Port Harcourt and Onne Ports are located on creeks that enjoy tidal advantage- so the vessel was able to come in and leave taking advantage of the high tide. This means that even though the channels are yet to be dredged, the ship had an incidence of free voyage.

By this, the NPA had successfully demonstrated that it can be done- the rest is for ship owners to tell their customers in Aba, Onitsha and other places that they can now bring their cargo through here.

By this, the NPA had successfully demonstrated that it can be done- the rest is for ship owners to tell their customers in Aba, Onitsha and other places that they can now bring their cargo through here.

FR News: Can We say that this is a sign of a coming boom?

Izah: Definitely. I have been talking to my colleagues in the MDA on how to ensure more competitive and friendly ports. we are also strategizing to assure the shippers that it can be done.

FR News: As a regulatory agency, what has the Shippers Council been doing over the years to help increase the patronage of the eastern seaports?

Izah: After listening to several complaints of frustrations from stakeholders in this area, the Shippers Council severally met with the National Assembly on the state of infrastructure, the issue of piracy and extortion on the roads. For example, in Warri, after every cargo has been released, at the port gate you will see Egbesu boys demanding for money. But, following our complaints, the coordinating ministry has reached out to the National Assembly for legislative intervention.

If you can remember, around May last year, members of the National Assembly members visited the eastern seaports to find out why they were underutilized. As a result of this, the lawmakers began to proffer ways of redirecting vessels to the eastern seaports.

Also, when we observed the overlapping functions of most agencies at the ports, Shippers Council through the presidency initiated the Standards Operating Procedure (SOP) of all stakeholders in the ports- the customs, the Immigration, the Port Health, NIMASA, SON, NAFDAC etc. The SOP streamlined the activities/functions of each stakeholder agency in the port.

The Shippers Council has been able to talk with the leadership of the Nigerian Customs to remove most of the checkpoints on the road because we believe this will ensure free and seamless delivery of cargo.

 We’ve also spoken with the hierarchy of the police to encourage officers on the Highways to allow free flow of cargo.

During the COVID19 Lockdown, the Shippers Council was fully active to make sure all our ports were operational because despite the pandemic, medicine, food and other essential goods had to be delivered.

In Rivers State, the Shippers Council was busy sensitizing stakeholders to keep working despite the health situation to ensure delivery of goods from ships.

Shippers council intervened when the Rivers State government arrested some members of the maritime workers union over breach of lockdown order.

FR News: As a stakeholder, how do you rate the readiness of the Eastern Seaports for a possible surge in port activities?

Izah: We are ready. I believe all the stakeholders have fought so hard that they will want this place to work. As port economic regulators, we have embarked on sensitization of all other stakeholders by way of introducing the new opportunities offered by the NPA. While the customs, NIMASA, SON, Port Health, including the Shipping Trade among others are all willing to take advantage of the new initiative.

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Hope Rises For Nigeria’s Underutilised Eastern Seaports

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Prospects of revival of the country’s eastern seaports heightened last Thursday at the occasion of the inauguration of the new Board of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.

Describing them as underutilised, the Chairman of the new Board, Akin Ricketts, lamented over their state, while noting that such a situation had far-reaching impact on the country’s economy, as it was responsible for the congestion which has crippled business at the western ports of Apapa and Tin Can Island; all in Lagos.

Ricketts then pledged that his new board would strive to resolve the situation by improving the conditions of the eastern ports. The eastern ports comprise Port Harcourt and Onne (Rivers State), Delta in Warri (Delta State) and Calabar (Cross River State). As envisaged, the eastern ports are to service the eastern part of the country comprising states located east of the River Niger.

For several years, the western ports have been under a state of strangulating congestion, with roads leading to them routinely clogged by unclaimed imported vehicles and assorted cargo, which in turn delay and deny onward passage of cleared cargo to their destinations for as much as six months in some cases.

This is because of the critical importance of the seaports to a Nigerian economy with preponderant dependence on imports of consumer goods, as well as industrial raw materials and equipment.

Incidentally, the problematic state of the country’s ports is not new, while the causative factors are also not far-fetched. For instance, one of the reported age-long problems of the eastern ports is that of narrow and shallow channels connecting them to the ocean, with associated high cost of dredging, as well as clearing such waterways.

Other issues that have made them less attractive to port users include the differential in freight charges when compared to western ports, and the deplorable state of infrastructure in them. Yet another is the challenge of security for maritime operations in the eastern zone.

Presently, many ship owners and operators in the eastern zone rent private vessels which are manned by armed naval personnel to escort their vessels of interest into and out of Nigerian waters. And this is usually at significant cost to the vehicle operators. Little wonder that over 60 per cent of cargo coming to Nigeria end up in the western ports, even when the importers may not be from that zone.

Meanwhile, it would be recalled that as apparent responses to the challenges of these eastern ports, the NPA in 2018 announced that it planned to invest N1bn to tackle the problem of reviving the eastern ports. Also, in 2019, the NPA announced a reduction of 10 per cent in port operational charges for use of the eastern ports by categories of ships, namely those with 250 of 20-foot equivalent containers, general cargo of 16,000 metric tonnes, combo vessels of 16,000 metric tonnes, as well as roll-on roll-off vessels with 250 units of vehicles.

It would seem that such measures are yet to sway the port users to step up significantly their use of these eastern ports as the affected ports still lack the operational ambience and infrastructure for trouble-free patronage by port users.

Many observers attribute the current problems of the country’s port system to the 2006 measures by the Federal Government to concession the ports and the attendant withdrawal of 30 per cennt incentive granted to vehicle owners who use the eastern ports under their control by government.

However, while the concession was to attract better business for the ports (including the eastern ports), the reverse was the case.

Hence while the concern of the chairman of the new NPA board remains valid, the onus still lies on the management of the agency to bring the eastern ports into full operational status.
Source: Daily Trust

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