In refusing to do the needful by heeding to professional advice and taking advantage of opportunities offered to engage the cadets on vessels, stakeholders in the shipping sector say the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) must take full blame for what they refer to as a show of shame exhibited at her head office last Monday by trained but idle cadets.

Cadets trained by the agency under its Nigerian Seafarers’ Development Programme (NSDP) barricaded the apex regulatory agency’s headquarters in Lagos, refusing to leave until they are assured of oppotunities for sea time training. This created tension and embarrassment to everybody including staff and visitors alike.

Speaking with Business & Maritime West Africa, seafarers and ship owners decried the inability of NIMASA to accommodate the inputs of professionals in running the NSDP programme especially the mandatory sea time experience which will qualify the cadets for employment. A prominent ship captain and board member of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners who chose not to be named described the NSDP programme as a waste of national resources contrived to serve personal interests and promote self-aggrandizement. From conception, he stated, it was not meant to succeed as sea time experience which qualifies the cadets for employment was carefully neglected.

In his reaction, President of the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Engr Greg Ogbeifun, said what the idle cadets exhibited was not a surprise as NIMASA got what it actually bargained for. According to him, the agency prepared the ground for what happened when it refused overtures made by those who should know to help her engage the cadets meaningfully despite lack of encouragement by those in authority.

“I’m pleased with this development by the NSDP cadets; serves NIMASA right. SOAN gave NIMASA management a robust presentation that would provide about 400 training berths on a sustainable roll-over basis on our members’ vessels for cadets’ sea time training, NIMASA rebuffed it with all sorts of excuses, preferring to use foreign opportunities for unknown reasons. I have continuously advised NIMASA to look in-country, partnering with SOAN to solve this problem but all to no avail,” Ogbeifun stated.

In 2017, the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) developed and presented to NIMASA a Cadetship Training Scheme (CTS) to help Nigeria address the challenges of meeting sea-time training for the needs of the Nigerian Seafarers’ Development Programme.

The scheme which NIMASA publicly hailed showed a vision anchored on professionalism, thorough training and mentorship, which actually dovetails into broad- based progression plan.

As SOAN President, Engr Ogbeifun had stated, “The SOAN initiative reflects our collective commitment as ship owners to addressing the dearth of suitably qualified seafarers for the Nigerian maritime industry”. Ogbeifun stressed the sincere confidence of SOAN members to see more cadets of NIMASA’s pet project, the NSDP, obtain the much-needed seaboard training, not only to satisfy their Certificate of Competence (CoC) requirements and fly Nigerian flag, but also to work on foreign vessels and earn hard currency.

He highlighted that two other African countries had already shown genuine interest by keying into the programme. But fueled by patriotism, he stated, the association decided to determine the actual needs of the country through NIMASA first, before throwing its gates open for other African countries.

He recalled that while Indians are supplying the officers cadre and Filipinos are availing the middle level group and ratings, the scheme was meticulously designed to ensure that Nigeria could supply both the officers and ratings, adding that SOAN was also working towards providing the sea-time at no bigger cost, but essentially that of minimal requirements for the cadets’ food, books, uniforms, medical and such other official requirements.

A glimpse into the CTS showed that those who would undergo the sea time would be selected purely on merit, following written examinations, after which the successful ones would go through oral interview.

The cadets would thereafter be on- board for at least a 12-month duration during which each would be rotated on different IMO approved vessels to ensure that they acquire different operational learning experiences under different team members in liaison with different International Oil Companies that SOAN members presently work with.

“Our streets are full of unemployed NSDP graduates”, Ogbeifun observed. He noted that no patriotic Nigerian, particularly SOAN member, could continue to fold his hands when Nigeria as a country is on the IMO White List. SOAN could ensure requisite training to provide cadets their OOW certification and subsequently empower them to prudently work both within and outside the country and realize their God-given goals.

In his reaction at SOAN’s presentation, NIMASA’s Director-General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, had applauded the association, indicating: “I am amazed by the extent of work you have done. I am truly, truly grateful!”. He had stressed that the most important reason NIMASA exists is because there are ships to regulate. He commended SOAN for its unwavering commitment to the growth of the Nigerian shipping industry and threw the floor open for his executive directors and directors to provide inputs. Their appreciative responses if heard by the cadets presently loafing on the streets presently could instantly douse their restiveness and avert the protest of last Monday.