Global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has expressed its readiness to assist Nigeria to launch its first maritime university next year.
The Secretary General of IMO, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, dropped the hint when the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Audu Umar, paid him a courtesy call at IMO Headquarters, London, United Kingdom.
The Federal Government had during the administration of late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua given a nod for the transformation of Nigeria's premier maritime training institution, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State into Nigeria's first maritime university.
Following the approval, some money was earmarked in the 2010 budget to enable it meet the requirements for the take-off of the university.
The Akwa Ibom State Government on its part, had in demonstration of its readiness to support the initiative also approved money for the payment of compensation for those whose land were acquired to get more landmass for the academy.
Apart from meeting one of the requirements of the National University Commission (NUC) for the establishment of universities across the country, the additional land, according to Governor Godswill Akpabio who presented the cheque for the payment of the compensation to the landowners, would enable the academy get the requisite infrastructural facilities befitting a university.
However, not much has been achieved in the transformation of MAN, Oron into Nigeria's first maritime university until the appointment of Mr. Joshua Okpo as the Rector of the academy.
In a bid to surmount the challenges of kicking off the establishment of the maritime university Umar led a delegation of top government officials, including the Director of Maritime Services (DMS), Federal Ministry of Transport, and Okpo on visit to the headquarters of the United Nations specialised agency in the United Kingdom.
The visit of the Nigerian delegation was sequel to an earlier visit to the World Maritime University (WMU), Malmo, Sweden early this year to seek the support and cooperation of the renowned university in MAN, Oron quest to transform into a tertiary institution.
Unfolding his reason for the visit, Umar told Sekimizu that in order to address the challenges arising from the 2010 Amendments to the STCW Convention, Nigeria is desirous of technical assistance and cooperation from IMO in filling the gaps created by the amendments for the institution.
The move is meant to ensure that quality training is not only seen to be given to the cadets in MAN, Oron but indeed delivered so that its graduates can compete favourably with their counterparts from any nautical institute anywhere in the world.
Umar, who was a member of the National Assembly prior to his appointment, sought the technical assistance of the global maritime watchdog in six key areas.
These include technical assistance from IMO to urgently review MAN, Oron programmes and curriculums to comply with the 2010 amendments to the STCW Convention; support from IMO in further training of the Academy's instructors, lecturers and other relevant personnel; support to the academy in securing slots on training vessels for sea time experience on board foreign-going ships for the teaming of its cadets in compliance with the requirements of the STCW Convention
Others are technical assistance from IMO for the upgrading of the academy from a diploma to a degree-awarding institution; request IMO to use the academy as a sales-point for IMO books and publications which are in high demand by the trainees, as well as greater involvement of the academy with IMO's seminars, conferences, workshops and other activities. As a mark of the IMO Secretary General's commitment to assist Nigeria, he has directed relevant departments of the world maritime body to explore avenues to help MAN, Oron in its quest to transform into a university.
In the same vein, Sekimizu has directed IMO, Head, Africa Anglophone Section, Technical Cooperation Division, Mr. William Azuh, to work on specific areas in line with the world maritime body's commitment to help Nigeria in getting its first maritime university as early as next year.