26 October 2013, Lagos – Not less than $6 billion is expected to be raked in as foreign exchange from the National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP), the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi, has said.
An initiative of NIMASA during the administration of Dr. Ade Dosunmu, NSDP is aimed at bridging the gap in the training of seafarers, which is presently inadequate worldwide, according to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) reports.
THISDAY checks revealed that the average age of the Nigerian seafarer today is 65 years compared to the global average of 35 years. Till date, no fewer than 2,000 Nigerians have been sent to overseas under the auspices of NSDP to train as seafarers.
Speaking at the on-going training programme for maritime reporters at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, Akwa Ibom State, Akpobolokemi said the agency’s pursuit of NSDP was to earn foreign exchange for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians.
Akpobolokemi, whose paper was presented by the Deputy Director and Head of Public Relations, Mr. Isichei Osamgbi, said Nigeria could actually earn as much as $6 billion annually.
He said he would leave no stone unturned, to ensure that Nigeria produces no fewer than 5,000 competent seafarers, who would be able to work on foreign vessels, and earn the desired hard currencies.
His words: “It has been argued that Nigeria loses an estimated $3 billion annually to foreign seafarers. If you add the remuneration of other foreigners in the shipping and logistics chain, we would probably be talking of losing about double this amount”, he observed, stressing that the implication of retaining about $6 billion in the country annually could not be under-estimated.
“The standard of living will improve considerably with the attendant vices occasioned with unemployment minimised. This can only happen if we have the right professionals to do the job.
“Besides, a lot of foreign income can be earned from seafarers working on foreign flagged vessels. The Asian tigers are a good case in point. Reports have it that out of the over $16 billion remittance into the Philippines by the Overseas Filipino Workers, over $7 billion is generated by Filipino seafarers.
“If the Nigerian seafarers working overseas can attract this much into Nigeria, it will have a positive impact on the nation’s real GDP”.
He told participants at the weeklong training programme under aegis of MARAN that the Filipinos had not achieved the feat because they had ships, but because they invested in manpower development.
“The Philippines have an educational infrastructure of about 90 maritime schools graduating an estimated number of 40,000 seafarers annually. This explains why 20 per cent of global seafarers are from Philippines, translating to about one in every five seafarers aboard a vessel being a Filipino.
“Clearly, the Philippines do not own the most ships but they work aboard the most vessels. This can be replicated in Nigeria as well. If we have all the vessels and do not have the requisite capacity to man them, the sector will still suffer. It is therefore instructive to have the people who will manage our fleet and the sector professionally for the benefit of the country as a first step”, he said.
He added that Nigeria has every reason to aim higher than it was presently doing, especially as a nation with a coastline of over 800 kilometres, higher potential for employment generation and wealth creation, and a maritime sector which embodies vibrant shipping activities capable of providing the desired push towards .meeting national aspirations.
“The NIMASA has put the issue of developing shipping activities in the country on the front burner and we are committed to tacking the malaise that has bedeviled the sector. It must be noted that more than 90 per cent of both in bound and out bound cargo in Nigeria are executed through shipping, making the sector too important to the continued growth of the economy to be neglected.
The NIMASA helmsman assured that the agency was going to put to good use, all the maritime endowment, and tasked the Nigerian media to be consistent in setting agenda and in supporting government where the authorities deserved it; adding that the agency was currently assisting MAN, Oron to upgrade to a degree awarding institution, with affiliation to the World Maritime University, Malmo, Sweden.
Akpobolokemi said he was happy with progress being recorded in through the NSDP, and pointed out that while the country nurtures the vision of training 5,000 cadets by the year 2015, the agency was glad that about 2,500 beneficiaries, being the first set of graduates of the programme, had already commenced sea training, which would also lead to the award of certificates of competency.
– John Iwori, This Day