By Oko Ebuka
According to a report by Guardian Newspaper, the ports and harbours employ mariners to ensure the safe navigation of ships. Their job is physically demanding, with marine pilots, for instance, required to board moving vessels from small, high-powered launches, often in rough seas. They also have to deal with high-risk cargo, poor maneuverability and communication difficulties.
The report further showed that the global shortage of shipping crew and officers has reached serious proportions, threatening the future of an industry that remains the lifeblood of world trade. According to the latest data from the International Maritime Organization (IMO), there was a supply requirement of 498,000 seafarers in 2008, with an officer shortfall of 34,000 that increased to 83,900 in 2012. (The Guardian, Nov. 19, 2014).
Benefits of blue economy
A statistical data from the 2017 research by Blue Economy Forum showed that the East Asian Seas (EAS) generates almost 3%-28% of the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of 5 countries in EAS region on income and jobs alone, with 90% trade and transportation shipping. Furthermore, the United States of America produces US$282 billion from the ocean economy with about 3 million people fully employed in the ocean dependent business.
According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.”
In another survey, it portrays that over 80% of global trade by volume and over 70% by value, is carried by sea and handled by ports worldwide as regard to the shipping and Port Facilities. Globally, 350 million jobs are linked to marine fisheries, with 90% of fishers living in developing countries. In 2012, sea tourism increased by 4% despite the global economic crisis and constituted 9% of Global GDP, 9% of global jobs, and generated US$ 1.3 trillion or 6% of the world’s export earnings.
Seafaring profession is very noble and worthy of bringing economic pride to the national treasury of any nation that values the players. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), in the quest to recognize the consistent efforts of the young men and women in this terrain of vocation, set aside 25th day of June every year to honor them. The world uniquely celebrates them just like other global professional bodies because of the sacrificial tendencies surrounding their activities in making the blue economy a viable one irrespective of the dangers ahead.
The Nigerian lens
Nigeria as a multi ethnic country, exceedingly blessed with bountiful economic opportunities both on land and in sea have proved their worth and commitment towards harnessing the natural elements beneath the deep blue seas. This is why maritime agencies such as Nigerian Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC), among others, where instituted to man the affairs of the industry in their respective roles and jurisdictions.
The Nigerian seafaring profession is rightly under the responsibilities of NIMASA who takes care of seafarer’s academic welfare from the academic cradle to the graduation height by providing adequate facilities and institutions such as the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Maritime University, and others. The agency also sent the seafarers for further studies in foreign schools in countries like Philippines, Egypt, etc., for various professional certifications.
Irony of situation
However, the gloomy face of the Nigerian seafarers can be widely seen in their ceaseless agitations and bravery shown in the sturdy faces of injustice, corruption, bribery, discrimination and other forms of social vices hovering above them, therefore preventing them from attaining the same professional heights like their foreign counterparts.
The recent agitation by the seafarers during the Seafarers day celebration, heaped so many unanswered questions on the lips of guests and other participants within the halls of the celebration. There placards widely shown everything they are fighting for or against in the hands of NIMASA.
Most things written boldly on the raised placards are those things keeping them far from having access to the sea privileges unlike their foreign counterparts who have everything at their disposal and affordable too.
In a recent paper presentation made by Capt. Akanbi Oluwasegun Enitan themed: “Beyond sea-time: A closer look at other prospects and challenges in seafaring profession”, he listed some gross challenges facing Nigerian seafarers which includes;
- Criminalization of seafarers: were they are vulnerable as the job exposes them to various charges and might never have a fair hearing.
- Seafarers Health: where maritime administration cares about fitness to work, but doesn’t care about fitness after work; health safety systems unavailable even as allowances and pensions remain unpaid.
- Abandonment: where there salaries and welfare are the least of their priorities.
Albeit, the above listed problems has primarily summarized the hidden scars of the seafaring profession in Nigeria which, if not properly tackled, will generate a vicious situation that can destroy the existing success of harnessing the blue economy in subsequent years to come.