The former President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt. Adewale Ishola has lamented the drastic shortfall of Merchant Navy and seafarers in the country.
Ishola spoke at a press briefing on Thursday in Lagos in preparation of the celebration of the UN Day of the seafareras a preamble to activities marking the UN Seafarers Day slated for Saturday, June 25, 2011 at the Onikan Stadium, Lagos.
According to him, the International Maritime Organisation over the past years extensively pronounced that people should go to sea because of the enormous potentials, the opportunities as well as the international experiences.
We are quite aware of huge job creation which the profession of seafaring could give, he said.
"The mariner recalled that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) started by sensitizing the state governments on the need to send their indigenes to sea", Ishola said.
He said the Nigerian seafarers were happy that the UN had declared June 25 as a Day of Seafarers, adding that "Nigeria should not be left behind as all maritime nations would celebrate and participate fully in the Seafarers Day".
The mariner said the match past would show-case that seafarers were important in both the nation and the global economies, adding that "Nigeria as an import-dependent nation needs more seafarers".
He said: "in line with our counterparts around the world, the master mariners association, NIMASA, National Inland waterways authority (NIWA), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) the Nigerian Navy, Maritime Workers' Union of Nigeria, Seamen Unit, Nigeria merchant navy officers & Water Transport Senior Staff Association as well as the Maritime Reporters' Association of Nigeria (MARAN) would grace the occasion."
Ishola said state governments, presidency, traditional rulers would be present on the Seafarers' Day.
Others expected at the occasion are: cadets form both the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State and the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, Lagos.
He added that government should try and fulfill its promise to buy a training ship for the maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron to give the cadets sea-time experience.
He was optimistic that if the Nigeria Unity Line (NUL) is resuscitated, cadets would have more sea-time training.
Ishola also suggested that government should increase the capacity of indigenous ship owners by assisting them to have more ships.
"If we have the capacity, we would be able to train our cadets," the mariner said.
The mariner blamed the plight of the industry practitioners on failure of successive government to listen to suggestions by practitioners in the industry.
He said the industry were grateful that a listening person like President Goodluck Jonathan from the waterside is now in the saddle to listen to the practitioners.
Capt. Thomas Kemewerigha, National President, Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers & Water Transport Senior Staff Association said it was unfortunate that the cadets were not be able to acquire adequate sea-time experience and often ended up riding commercial motorcycles otherwise known as 'okada'.
Kemewerigha said Nigeria had neglected the maritime industry which he described as a vibrant and untapped sector that could boost the employment of youths
The merchant navy officer said the Seafarers' Day would be a day for show-casing the maritime potentials of the nation.
He wondered why Nigerian cadets were not getting jobs when there are hundreds of cabotage vessels in the nation's coastal waters.
He said NIMASA had been enforcing its directive that all ship operators including the multinational must have Nigeria cadets on board for sea-time experience.
Kemewerigha also expressed concern over the poor state of the maritime industry, saying that only few master mariners trained by government several decades ago were in position to formulate policies.
Mr Alex Peters, Honourary Secretary, Institute of Marine Engineers, Science and Technology, said Nigeria had no ships, no personnel to move the industry forward.
Peters said it appeared the developed World were not anxious to see developing nations coming to play in the big field of maritime transportation.
The experts concluded that "there is nothing to celebrate by the Nigerian seafarers but they would have the opportunity of that day to draw attention to the plight of the seafarers".