N14bn FG, States Seafarers Project Under Threat

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Lack of cooperation from state governors has become a major barrier in the training of about 900 seafarers for a period of four years in overseas universities, LEADERSHIP can authoritatively reveal.

Twenty-five seafarers from each state are supposed to be trained under the Nigeria Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) anchored by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in partnership with the 36 state governments. While the state governments are to bear 60 per cent of cost of training, the maritime agency will take up the balance, 40 per cent.

But for three years, only 10 states have submitted to the programme, which entails a training cost of $25,000 (about N3.9 million) per annum for each cadet to get the International Maritime Organisation standard certification for shipping competence.
An analysis of the cost of training shows $100,000 (about N15.6 million) for one cadet in a year, making a total of N14.04 billion for the 900 cadets.

Speaking with our correspondent in an interview at the NIMASA Headquarters in Lagos, the agency’s executive director, maritime and cabortage services, Ibrahim Zailani, said in addition to a few technical challenges, lack of cooperation from the state governors was hindering the success of the programme, which was intended to bridge the already wide gap in shipping manpower in the country.

He said, “We have realised that we have not done much because most of the state governments have a misconception of the NSDP. They ask questions such as: are the cadets coming back to work in our states when they become full-fledged sea masters, nautical or marine engineers? The fact that most of our states are not coastal states is also deterring their governments, because they ask of what benefit it is to them.

But I have seen a Nigerian master mariner earning more than $1 million in Singapore. They say the programme is expensive, that the $25,000 per annum is high for them. The cost of training a seafarer is highly expensive. It is really expensive to train nautical scientists, ship masters and marine engineers. But it will economically empower citizens of these states.”
He however added that in addition to taking over the cost of training 80 cadets 100 per cent, NIMASA had also opened secondary windows for people to benefit from the programme through company or individual efforts.

According to him, a total of 147 cadets have enrolled in the last three years and are studying at Amet Maritime University of India, Arab College of Science and Maritime Transport Technology in Alexandria, Egypt, the College of Nautical Science, Glasgow and the School of Maritime Engineering in Newcastle.

Zailani also explained that another problem faced by the programme was availability of international ocean-going vessels on which to provide sea time for the cadets.
The 10 states that have enrolled so far include Lagos, Ondo Ekiti, Ebonyi and Kogi. Others are Kaduna, Niger, FCT, Jigawa and Benue states. No state from the South-South region of the country, which covers the bulk of the country’s coastal layout have enrolled in the programme.

Industry experts have continued to bemoan shortage of manpower in the maritime sector. Periodic BIMCO/ISF studies have continuously highlighted a forecasted shortage of about 27,000 officers worldwide by the year 2015, while a most recently study projected a shortfall of up to 83,000 officers in less than three years from 2011.

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