The influx of seafarers' certificate in the Nigerian shipping sub-sector is currently a major source of worry for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and some concerned stakeholders. The issue of fake seafarers' certification has led to engine of vessels damaged by unqualified sailors that know next to nothing about vessels.
Confirming the development, the spokesman of NIMASA, Mr. Philip Kyanet, told Vanguard Maritime Report that NIMASA was aware of the issue and is already doing something about it.
NIMASA's former Director of Shipping, Captain Waredi Enisouh, also said that previous leaderships of the agency have addressed the menace.
According to him the agency had uploaded all original certificates it issued on a dedicated website for authentications by any interested persons.
Enisouh said: "Right from the time NIMASA started issuing seafarers' certificates, the certificates with the serial numbers are in that particular website. Any employer of seafarer can go to that website to verify the prospective employee's certificate. During our time Police raided where they forged these certificates at 'Waterside' in Apapa; there was a syndicate outside NIMASA.
"The system should also be able to alert us that these certificates have expired and at the expiration of a certificate, we should be able to contact the person and tell him or her that the certificate has expired. The moment they know you are going to renew your certificate and you are required to be interviewed, they will stop forging."
Speaking in similar vein, another former Director of Safety, Capt Ade Olopoenia, told Vanguard Maritime Report that the issue of forging of seafarers' certificates was not limited to Nigeria adding that it was also not limited to seafarers' certificate alone.
He explained that during the Manila Conference on STCW, fake certification was one of the issues discussed, meaning it was a global phenomenon. He stated that certificates issued by NIMASA were supposed to be in a database adding that most times Nigerian ship owners looked for cheap labour and do not always verify the certificates of their employees.
"When I was in NIMASA, what we did was that whenever a seafarer is to be employed, and he presents his certificate, that certificate would be sent to NIMASA for verification."
A serving Director in NIMASA who refused to be quoted told Vanguard Maritime Report said that there was currently a system of verification in place adding, however, that the system needed to be improved upon.
The director also said the entry qualification of the cadets must be verified before they are admitted at these maritime training institutions.
He stated: "We have something very good on ground but we need to elevate it and make it electronically acceptable; we need to do background checks on the applicants into these institutions, their entry certificates.
"We have a very good system, we can crosscheck certificates, but is anybody cross checking the basic entry requirement which is the West African Examination Certificate, WAEC? This is because some of these people come with fake WAEC."