Captain Caleb Danladi Bako is a Master Mariner and Maritime Expert/Researcher. In this interview with Moses Orjime, he said Seafarers have the opportunity of exploring the world and advocated that women should be given prominent roles in the Martine Sector among other issues.
What can you say about this year’s World Seafarers’ Day?
World Maritime day is celebrated all over the the world to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the environment. It is also celebrated to emphasise a particular aspect of IMO’s work. Each year has its own theme, which reflects the International Maritime Organisation’s work throughout the year in question.
In 2010, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) decided to designate June 25th as the International Day of the Seafarers as a way to recognise that almost everything that we use in our daily lives has been directly or indirectly affected by seas and to appreciate seafarers for their contribution in driving the global economy and supply chain. As you are aware, more than 90 per cent of global trade is carried by sea, without seafarers, these trades will be impossible.
The theme for this year’s Seafarers’ Day is titled, “Seafarers are Key Workers, Essential To Shipping and Essential To The World.” Seafarers are not only key workers in the global economy but they are essential workers. With the recent outbreak of Covid-19 Pandemic, which has resulted in closure of major businesses, lockdown of airports in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, Seafarers have been on the forefront in playing key logistical roles by making the movement of vital goods and services such as food, medicines and medical supplies possible.
However, this pandemic has led to difficult working conditions for Seafarers. Some of them are forced to work with expired contracts, and are unable to disembark from ships to unite with their families at ports due to lock-down measures and travel bans imposed by various governments to stem the spread of Covid-19.
This year’s Seafarers’ Day campaign is focused on paying tribute to Seafarers, acknowledging their contributions, sacrifices and challenges they face. The campaign also seeks to raise the level of public awareness of the work achieved by Seafarers in response to the pandemic and appreciate their contributions.
Tell us more about opportunities in the Maritime Sector.
Maritime sector has a huge potential for Seafarers. First of all, Seafarers are the lifeblood of the global Maritime industry. Without them the industry will fail. Shipping and seafarers keep the world commerce and trade running. More than 90 per cent of everything we see around us has travelled by sea at some point.
Seafarers have the opportunity to work ashore after their career at sea. The skills they acquired at sea equip them for a better career ashore. Opportunities exist in chartering, ship management, ship operations, ship agency, port executives, maritime education and training, maritime pilotage, marine surveying, marine consultancy. Some of these jobs require prior knowledge of seafaring. After decades of sea service, people crave for shore jobs. Since seafarers have tremendous experiences, it’s easier to switch and their is no need to take additional courses.
Tell us about your experience and challenging moments as a Seafarer.
Despite the several benefits of working onboardship as a Seafarer, there are many unanticipated challenges as well. Figuring out how to be part of a new culture can, at times, be frustrating. As a Seafarer, you have the opportunity of exploring the world, working with different cultures, good wages, etc. Wages earned by Seafarers are normally above similar professions ashore. As a Seafarer, you take early responsibility by ensuring safety of ships and their cargoes, career flexibility and job security, international recognition, long holidays among others. As a Seafarer, you will have to sacrifice your social life at a point in your career by staying away from loved ones, missing events like birthdays, and you will also be unable to attend funeral events. I have missed my loved ones’ birthdays, weddings, Christmas celebrations during my career as a Seafarer. As a Seafarer, you are bound to face ugly storms and monstrous waves, extreme weather events and very tough sea experiences.
Several incidents have happened at sea because of extreme weather events. If any one is considering working under such conditions, he or she needs to know that not every one can do it and those working ashore cannot fathom the hardship one has to face in such an environment.
Another challenge of Seafaring is piracy. According to report, more than 120,000 travel or go through dangerous piracy areas. Unprecedented numbers of kidnappings have taken place in Gulf of Guinea, Gulf of Aden, South China Sea and Indian ocean. The number of Seafare kidnaps in Gulf of Aden alone increased to 78 in 2018 and 121 in 2019. Seafarers face extreme health hazards. Visit a ship and you will realise that working on ships is not as easy as people think. Apart of physical hazards and injuries, Seafarers also fall prey to psychological problems such as home sickness, loneliness and fatigue.
Seafarers sometimes have to obey very tough regulations and laws. Some Seafarers are at high risk of abandonment while performing their duties. According to ITF, Seafarers are among the most exploited and abused groups of workers in the world. Some Seafarers live with least accommodation and communication facilities.
What is still lacking in the Maritime sector in Nigeria?
On the aspect of Seafarers, there are numerous challenges ranging from inavailability of berths for cadetship training/sea time for deck and engine crew, to inconsistent shipping policies relating to training and recruitment of seafarers. Investors are faced with issues like inadequate infrastructure (road network), which causes port congestion, multiple government agencies in ports that lead to inefficiency in the system and security challenges. Infrastructure deficit is the greatest challenge because of poor road access to ports and lack of multimodal means of transportation (rail) and barges for transporting containers and cargoes among others.
What advice do you have for Nigerians, especially women that want to venture into the Maritime Sector?
My advice is for the Federal Government, Maritime community and stakeholders in Maritime sector to support everything that would give women roles in the Maritime sector. The theme for 2019 World Maritime day focused on women empowerment. This will provide an opportunity to raise awareness on the importance of gender equality in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG) and to highlight the important contribution of women to the maritime sector. I think strong female role models can help shift the maritime industry and make it a more viable career option for many women by sharing their experiences.