28 July 2016, Lagos—Following a request by the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Education, the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, have petitioned the lower chamber on the need to put measures in place for effective utilisation of the Cabotage Act.
he seafarers union also advised the committee on how the Cabotage Act can be of immense benefit to indigenous operators. A statement by the union’s President, Mr Matthew Alalade said that Nigeria’s territorial waters have been invaded by foreign seafarers to the detriment of indigenous operators.
Also, the merchant navy outfit further reiterated that Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has been slow to reach bilateral agreements with all foreign flagged vessels willing to operate within Nigeria Cabotage trade and those already trading therein.
The Trade Union Congress, TUC, affiliate union further re-emphasised the need for the National Assembly to amend the Act. According to the union, the waiver content of Cabotage has been distorted to the advantage of foreigners, affirming that under the Act, Nigerians were expected to understudy foreigners for two years.
“So, waivers were to have a life span of two years for each position and for 13 years now, government has insisted that no waivers had been granted, but the same foreigner continues on the job with a Temporary Work Permit.”
According to the union, Certificate of Competency, CoC, held by Nigerians after revalidation in accordance with the STCW 95 between 2000 to 2002 suffered some level of limitations that were placed by the regulatory agency.
The union noted that, “All were limited to Near Coastal Voyage, NCV, as trading areas and less than 3000grt or less than 3000kw capacity.”
It stressed that the CoCs issued by NIMASA carry the NCV limitation, hence, Nigerian officers can only partake in the Cabotage, while tonnage and kilowatt propulsion or foreign certificate are without limitation.
“Foreigners from Pakistan, India, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Singapore, China and Malaysia and others flood our marine offshore industry with CoCs that are never vetted for correctness, some of which are less than tissue papers and hijack jobs meant for experienced and competent Nigerians, placing them on the unemployment market to wallow in despair, so Cabotage instead of being a blessing becomes a curse.”
The Merchant Navy explained that already, there was a vacuum that currently exists between the middle level management cadre onboard and the Captains, and Chief Engineers, pointing out that within the next five years, the already ageing top officers in the deck and engine room may wish to step aside.