Maritime stakeholders and experts who participated at the just-concluded 2019 edition of ‘A Day With Nigeria Maritime Students’ held recently in Lagos by Platforms Communications have suggested better ways to solve the sea-time challenge facing Nigerian cadets.
Speaking while delivering his goodwill message as Father of the Day at the occasion, a master mariner, Captain Ade Olopoeniyan called on the government agencies, maritime colleges as well as maritime stakeholders to fashion out better ways of providing sea time experience for Nigerian cadets in order for them to have proper practical training onboard ships.
Olopoeniyan unequivocally told the students that the fact remained that most of them would not have the opportunity to have practical training on a ship even though the conference was themed “beyond sea time”.
According to hi, “I know that a lot of cadets here, when you finish, you will not be able to get that mandatory twelve months on a ship or if the ship is not trading, you are not getting enough practical training. If the ship will just be at anchorage for about six months or nine months, you won’t get any training, you are just on a ship, you are not getting enough experience.
“So, the government agencies that are here, the ship owners, stakeholders even the maritime colleges should begin to think of better ways of sea time for cadets so that they can have proper practical training onboard ships not just a ship staying at anchorage for twelve months then you come back and you have not learnt anything”.
Olopoeniyan who is also a former President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMMS) informed the students that the sea career is very challenging but very rewarding as well adding that it is challenging in the sense that by the time one goes to sea after the studies and board ship on his own, there are so many obstacles that one should worry about even as he noted that it needs a lot of dedications, commitment on the part of the cadets.
“In my own case, I know that when we started, we were eight of us that started the career sea time but only five of us were able to make it. So, you have to be really dedicated, determined that you want to succeed. It is rewarding in the sense that by the time you are able to finish your first examinations and you get your certificate of competency, in this period where there is a lot of problems with employment, you go to University and you get a Degree, you can’t get a job, if you get a certificate of competency as a seafarer either as a deck officer or an engineer, you are going to get job, that is for sure.
“And as Dr. Onyung has said, there are so many opportunities at sea, a lot of vessels are operating in Nigerian waters and are being manned by foreigners. If you can get more Nigerians qualify as competent seafarers, then, there won’t be any need for a lot of foreigners on our ships even on the coastal side. So, it is a rewarding experience. Again too, if you have a certificate, you don’t only be on coastal vessels, you can be on foreign going vessels where you get to know the world, different countries, different cultures, different experiences. And of course, that is why I actually got a lot of education. By traveling round the world, you are going to get a lot education from that. So, it is a rewarding experience.
“Then, beyond sea time, maybe after you have gotten your classified by universal certificate or classified by Nigeria certificate, you can now decide to come to your second career at shore which was what I did. After I became a captain on a ship, I came down to work ashore, which was my second career and I worked in the Ministry of Transport, I worked in NIMASA and I have retired now. And I am actually into my third career now by just doing consultancy services. So, I have had three careers as a seafarer which if you are serious, you can emulate what I have done by actually having first, second and third career as seafarers”, he stated.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chairman of the conference and President of the Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. MkGeorge Onyung enjoined the students to take their studies very serious and forget about the challenges that they may encounter in the course of their studies saying “you have capacities as adults to do exploit, so, I say to you, people don’t go to Olympics to try, you go there to get a gold medal, so, don’t say, I went to school, I have tried, I want you to go and get a gold medal”.
He however observed that for them to get to the next level of their career as seafarers which according to him was after their training, they needed to have the equipment that would put them out at sea.
In his words,” I am in downstream tanker operation and most of our ships go from Lagos to Port-Harcourt to Calabar, just around the Coast, if you are going to be on our vessel for sea training, you are not probably going to see Ghana until maybe after two years or so, you go to Port of Tema and the earliest one is if you are going to go for dry dock, you probably, when there are no capacity here or all the yards are full, you have to go to Sierra-Leone and then you just go there for dry dock and come back. But for you to explore the world, for you to see the mysteries of the sea, for you to go to every corner of the ocean, we need to have meaningful dialogue with the NNPC to talk about how we can export our crude in VLCCs that are manned by these young people.
“We pray that in my tenure, we are going to engage in issue based, focused engagements with the various authorities. We are going to engage NIMASA, we are going to engage NNPC, we are going to engage the customs, we are going to engage the Navy, we are going to engage all those that affect the ocean as ship owners because I told you that there is so many people in the ocean and the only people that floats on the waters are me and you on ships. Therefore, there must be a leadership that must be thinking of the ocean because there is a responsibility that has to be taken on the ocean, there must be sustainability also of the ocean.
“So, like I said, we are going to work with you, mentor you so that you can come in and truly understand the wealth of these oceans. I pray that these deliberations will go on very well and then at the end of these deliberations, all of you will come out confident, all of you will come out strong because where the world is going whether Nigeria likes it or not, the ships are going through innovations of digitalization and automation. So, if we are not ready, even if you come out and you are not trained to be digitally minded, then, of course, the ships are coming to be smart ships, whether we are moving or not, the world is moving”.
On his part, the convener of the conference and Managing Director/ CEO of Platforms Communications, Mr. Sylvanus Obasi pointed out that the 2019 edition of the conference was very crucial as it we set to address two important issues captured in the two papers presentations for the day’s occasion one of which was targeted at examining the place of the Nigerian youth in the enormous potentials in the Nigerian maritime industry.
He added that the second paper would bring to the limelight the challenges that could deter a Nigerian seafarer from continuing his seafaring profession and also proffer solutions on how relevant government agencies, regulators and concerned stakeholders could work together to solve the challenges so that the seafarers could easily progress to the next level of their career.