Stakeholders in the maritime industry have lamented the drastic shortfall in the number of merchant navy officers and seafarers in the country.
A former President of Nigerian Association of Master Mariners, Capt. Adewale Ishola, made the observation while briefing maritime correspondents on the observance of UN Seafarers Day.
"The UN Seafarers Day is holding on Saturday, June 25. Nigeria, as an import-dependent nation needs more seafarers. We are quite aware of huge job creation which the profession of seafaring can give,’’ Ishola said.
He said that the International Maritime Organisation, had over the years, stressed that more seafarers should experience the sea in view of its enormous potentials.
Ishola said that the Federal Government should fulfil its promise of buying a training ship for the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron to give the cadets sea exposure.
He expressed optimism that with the resuscitation of Nigeria Unity Line, cadets would have more sea training.
He also suggested that government should increase the capacity of indigenous ship owners by assisting them with more ships. “If we have the capacity, we will be able to train our cadets,” he said.
The mariner blamed the plight of the industry on failure of successive governments to listen to suggestions from practitioners in the industry. He recalled that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had sensitised state governments on the need to send their indigenes to sea.
The president advised Master Mariners Association, NIMASA, Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders to grace the occasion of the Seafarers Day along with their counterparts around the world.
National President of Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Capt. Thomas Kemewerigha, said that it was unfortunate that cadets from Oron could not acquire adequate sea experience. He said that the cadets often ended up riding commercial motorcycles instead of acquiring sea experience.
Kemewerigha said that Nigeria had neglected the maritime industry, which he described as a vibrant and untapped sector that could boost the employment of youths . He wondered why Nigerian cadets were not getting jobs when there were hundreds of “cabotage vessels” on the nation’s coastal waters.
He lauded NIMASA for enforcing its directive that all ship operators, including those of multinationals must have Nigerian cadets on board for sea experience. Kemewerigha also said that only few master mariners trained by government several decades ago were in positions to formulate policies.
The merchant navy officer said the Seafarers Day would be a day for showcasing the maritime potentials of the nation.
Honourary secretary of Institute of Marine Engineers, Science and Technology, Mr Alex Peters, observed that Nigeria does not have enough ships and personnel to move the industry forward.