When the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) was introduced in 2008, it was meant to develop a pool of trained cadets who would man our vessels especially with the coming on stream of the Cabotage Act 2003.
The thinking then was that with the production of certified seafarers, the dearth of seafarers arising from old age and death would be a thing of the past.
According to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, so far, about 2, 500 cadets have been trained from the NSDP excluding those trained from the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Akwa Ibom State and other approved maritime schools within the country.
Recently, at a well-attended meeting in Lagos, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside announced that it was sending out the first batch of cadets for the mandatory sea time training in Egypt, UK and the Philippines.
This was good news to the ears because, for too long, qualified seafarers had been pounding the streets of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt in search of jobs. Frustrated, they turned their idle time to crime and criminality.
However, it is quite obvious that there are issues that are begging for attention as we constantly embark on these foreign training of our cadets to the detriment of our own economy. It is also believed that we pay lot in foreign exchange to arrange for the mandatory sea time in foreign vessels. It is equally worrisome that some of those who are trained abroad never return to the country as there are no opportunities for gainful employment for them.
Besides, the country’s loss in terms of infrastructure development and technology transfer cannot be quantified in naira and kobo. As we have stated elsewhere, Nigeria needs to develop a properly articulated maritime vision of where it wants to take the country in the next five, ten years, building on the roadmap of becoming a Maritime Power in the West and Central African region. If it is able to set up a National Carrier in the near future, it will have saved us a lot of losses in foreign training and also help retain our cadets in the country.
Therefore, we call on the government to take a serious look at how indigenous capacity can be strengthened through disbursement of the Cabotage Vessels Finance Fund (CVFF). This fund is already wearing the toga of controversy as the minister of transportation, Chibuike Amaechi told Shipowners in December that he was not keen on disbursing the fund as he was waiting to see the framework of how the shipowners hoped to utilise the fund. Hell hath no fury than a shipper scorned!
If this disbursement is carried out to local shipowners, it will help increase indigenous capacity, strengthen their businesses and create the opportunity to buy better vessels, employ cadets and crew members and this will in turn, have a positive impact on the nation’s economy. Nigeria cannot afford to fritter away scarce foreign exchange on the altar of training cadets in foreign institutions when all we need to do is engage, re-engineer and have the political will to make our systems work.