Sea Time Experience and the Nigerian Maritime Cadets

Cadets  on board a  shipTo ensure that cadets at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron get jobs anywhere in the world, Nigeria should pursue sea time experience writes John Iwori.
Sea time training entails seafarers spending quality time on board ocean going vessels, and it is one of the prerequisites for qualification as a cadet. In practical terms, it involves cadets getting on board ships so that they can get hands on  training as oppose to the theory they learnt in the classrooms.
Sea Time Campaign
That Nigeria has been pursuing sea time for her cadets over the years is to say the least. This is because sea time is one of the parameters for the assessment of cadets for the issuance of certificate of competence (CoC). In fact, it is one of the things employers demand from any cadet they want to employ to board their ships.
It is an indubitable fact that sea time is an integral component of international standard and practice. Employers, especially ship owners will always demand to know whether a cadet has sea time experience and if yes, where, when and for how long.
Nigeria’s quest to make cadets produced by her maritime training institutions to have sea time experience has been bedevilled with many obstacles. These obstacles which have often stunted the production of qualified seafarers became worse with the liquidation of Nigeria’s national shipping carrier, the Nigerian National Shipping Line Limited (NNSL) in 1995.
This is not unconnected with the fact that prior to the liquidation of NNSL, some cadets produced by Nigerian maritime training institutions, especially the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State were often taken on board the ships belonging to the defunct national carrier for their sea time training. The situation was not helped by the fact that Nigeria does not have a training ship.
Attempts to acquire a training ship for MAN, Oron over a decade ago was mired in controversy as there were accusation and counter accusation on the cost and quality of the training ship which was said to be dilapidated before the contractor bought and brought it into Nigeria. Till date, no government official is ready to make public the whereabouts of the training ship which said to have sunk at the mouth of River Cross where it initially berthed while the debate over its quality and cost raged.   
It was in a bid to tackle the challenge of getting sea time for her cadets that Nigeria has continued to explore avenues to do so within and outside the country.
Synergy for Success
Aware that its quest to be Nigeria’s first maritime university will be a mirage without a sustainable and enduring programme, MAN, Oron has pursued a vigorous campaign for a sea time experience for her cadets. Though many institutions and countries are on the card for Nigeria to collaborate so that her cadets can get sea time experience, the one with Turkey is on the front burner.
Documents obtained by THISDAY said the pursuit of a sea time experience with Turkey has gone far with the signing of MoU. The MoU which was signed under the auspices of MAN, Oron for the Federal Government of Nigeria and Piri Reis University, Istanbul for the Turkish government was hinged on an understanding that Nigeria cannot single headedly pursue a sea time programme successfully. This is not far from the truth. Experience from the past offers many evidence to buttress this assertion.
THISDAY checks revealed that the world maritime community shares that one of the most impending challenges at present is the shortage of qualified seafaring human resources of today and tomorrow. Need for qualified seafarers are increasing, and so does the need for the quality education and training of the young people of the next generations in this profession.
According to the provisions of the MoU which was signed by the Rector of Piri Reis University, Turkey, Professor Osman Kamil Sag and the Rector of MAN, Oron, Mr. Joshua Okpo said parties to the MoU recognize and share that the mandatory periods of seagoing service, or on-board-training, are of prime importance in learning the job of being a ship’s officer and in achieving the overall standard of competence required” as stipulated in STCW Convention.
It was gathered that on-board-training opportunities available for young people worldwide are much less than required. It is on record that going by the current reality of things in the maritime world, Nigeria is no exception. Not a few stakeholders have opined that it is the time for maritime education and training institutions to commit themselves to actively and innovatively address both in terms of quantity and quality the solemn challenge of the global shortage of on-board-training opportunities through their network. They averred that such global collaboration should be carried out through closest communication and co-operation with the industry and IMO.
The parties to the  MoU recognize that cadets who leave the profession due to the incomplete mandatory periods of seagoing service in spite of their successful accomplishments in the classrooms will never come back again, which is one of the major causes of shortage of the human resources in the maritime sector of the economy.
The African continent has been taking off to the stage of sustainable development. United Nations has been prioritizing to support this, including various efforts through UNESCO and IMO. Nigeria, being the most populous country in Africa with the young population of more than 60 percent of the total 170 million people are under the age of 25, and being the second largest economy of the continent, has all the reason to pave ways for sustainable development of the country together with all other colleague countries of Africa. 
It is an indubitable fact that the Nigerian maritime industry, including shipping, ports, logistics, shipbuilding, fishery, and offshore energy have shown  remarkable dynamism, and will continue to do so toward the future.
According to the provisions of the MoU, the coherent and systematic maritime education and training capabilities, of which on-board-training constitutes critically important part, therefore, should be one of the most critical infrastructures to assure Nigeria of its sustainable maritime development.
The parties of this MoU are, therefore, firmly convinced that this innovative initiative, “GOBTC-Nigeria On-Board-Training Project (GNOP)”, should satisfy their responsibility for responding to the present and existing critical needs of sustainable high quality on-board-training opportunities for the next generation of Nigerians.
Training Ship
The procurement of a training ship for Nigerian cadets cannot be over stressed. Already, the National Assembly is backing the move with the quest to ensure the budget for it is properly funded this year.
Chairman, House Committee on Marine Transport, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi who confirmed the development in a chat with THISDAY said it was very important that MAN, Oron has training vessel for its cadets.
According to him, it was the intervention of the IMO Secretary General, Mr. Koji Sekimizu at the request of the committee during its visit to Liverpool, London that afforded the Nigerian cadets training abroad to have the privilege of having sea-time training integrated into their study.
Ugwuanyi who represents Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency in the lower chamber revealed that the committee had earlier impressed upon on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) on the need to acquire a training ship that could also be used by Navy and other related institutions which will add value to MAN, Oron and other institutions while NIMASA would be its custodian and operator.
The lawmaker who has not hidden his passion to get the right policies in place in the maritime sector of the economy since he took over the chairmanship of the committee promised that members would gladly and quickly approve the request in the NIMASA budget due to its importance to the development of the new crop of sea farers in the country.
“You cannot work in a ship when you do not have sea-time experience. It is just like you want to be a computer specialist when you have not seen a computer. This is the area we are interested in as legislators. Do your work and we shall do our own”, he said.
He also mentioned the need for NIMASA to expand the scope of the programme so that it can accommodate more people, particularly cadets from MAN, Oron in the placement of participants for the programme in the years ahead.
Last Word
Against the backdrop of what Nigeria nay Nigerians experience in her previous efforts to get a training vessel it is imperative for those saddled with the responsibility of procuring a training ship to allow national interest rather personal or group interest to guide their actions and inactions. 
The capacity of the training ship, cost, where to procure it and how it will be utilise by the cadets and other ship operators during the fallow period should be dictated by national interest and nothing else. This is one of the veritable ways of averting mistakes of the past.
Otherwise, Nigeria is bound to repeat history by passing through the same road of waste, outright stealing and mortgaging the future of the present and future generations as it affects the maritime sector of the economy. Will the right thing be done no matter whose ox is gored?
Will those concerned go and procure another dead vessel in the name of acquiring a training ship for Nigerian cadets? Who will manage the vessel or will it be allowed to go bad a few months or years after its acquisition? The answers to these and many more questions should agitate the minds of the helmsmen of relevant government agencies and other stakeholders, especially members of the National Assembly as they take crucial decisions in Nigeria’s quest to get sea time experience for Nigerian cadets this year.

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