Mon. Oct 18th, 2021

More attention should be given to seafarers as it is the last line of defense for survival: World Maritime Day (WMD) Celebration

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The minister of transportation Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi was quoted on world maritime day, during his speech saying, “ This raises awareness of seafarersʹ vital role in world trade and increase their visibility by drawing attention to the invaluable role they play now and will continue to play in the future. It is indeed an iconic decision to celebrate Seafarers at a time when these men and women stand out as the last line of defence for global survival. Shipping and seafarers keep global commerce and trade running with over 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally and transporting every kind of cargo.

The event which took place on the 30th September 2021, saw the minister going on to emphasize why it is a necessity to celebrate the shipping and seafarers saying that “the International Maritime Organization’s decision to celebrate the seafarer this year will further highlight the unprecedented hardship they are confronted with due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions and total lockdown in some cases meant that hundreds of seafarers remain at sea for extended periods without access to family and essential needs. As a Maritime nation, shipping is strategic in our national planning in terms of national security, job creation and socio-economic stability”.

furthermore, he went on to praise how far the technology and efforts put into transportation have raked it so much progress by saying “Notably, seafaring has evolved over the years from apprenticeship to specialized and rigorous nautical education, necessitated by digitalization and the development of modern, technologically advanced vessels. The world is in short supply of professionally qualified seafarers today and the rapid rise in digital technology and automation mean that one of the world’s oldest professions is set to change more in the next couple of years than ever before. With evolving technology, the seafarer of the future will likely be working in a much smaller crew, a complex individual task and have greater interaction and engagement with the global trading environment.

The minister said that despite its challenges it is important to note the key component of pushing further, and he gave detailed accounts to all that have been going and proposed that suggestions be made further the course of transportation in Nigeria saying “We are concerned about the Seafarer Workforce Report which warns that there could be a shortfall in officers by the year 2026. To bridge the resource gap in seafaring, there is the need to actively promote careers at sea and enhanced maritime education and training to enhance the diverse skills needed for a greener and more digitally connected maritime industry. It is pleasing to note that the National Inland Waterways Authority has intensified the training and certification of inland craft captains and crew for safe navigation on the waterways. In addition, over 50 vessels were procured within the last 2 years while several jetties have been constructed at Odekpe in Anambra State, Yanegoa, Bayelsa State among others. Efforts are ongoing for the provision of buoys and other navigational aids in inland waterways for the constitution of a Joint Emergency Response task force to ensure safety on the Lagos waterways, as well as electronic registration of Boat registration in the inland waterways. Nigeria will continue to analyze and respond to trends in seafarer retention and regularly monitor the nation’s seafarer workforce, to ensure that the Standard of Training, Certification & Watch Keeping (STCW) certified Seafarers keep pace with global demands”.

The governor of Lagos Babajide Sanwo-Olu also gave his remark during the event saying “The maritime industry is a window to economic prosperity and national development of nations, and Lagos State has utilized its maritime status to foster national unity and cohesion as the centre of excellence. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is magnanimous in its choice of theme for the 2021 celebration, “Seafarers: at the core of shipping’s future” considering that ships cannot sail without the sailor.

Congratulating the Federal Ministry of Transportation with its Maritime Agencies and the entire Nigerian Maritime Community on this year’s celebration, saying “Lagos State Government appreciates your partnership in developing this sector both for foreign and domestic trade. The blue economy is a vast window of opportunity with potentials that have remained largely untapped in areas such as employment generation, exploitation of marine resources, international and cabotage trade, passenger transport, foreign exchange earnings, regulated fishing among others.

Nigeria needs to consolidate its position as the maritime hub for West and Central Africa by fully harnessing its maritime resources and ensuring safety and security within our territorial waters and in the Gulf of Guinea. The Gulf of Guinea is strategic to our economic calculations and the unprecedented rise in criminal activities within the domain must not be allowed to continue unabated. Maritime is a global business and the Federal Government should intensify international collaboration on the safety and security of navigation to achieve investor confidence and attract foreign capital investment”.

He kept his profound appreciation of all efforts being put towards attaining excellence saying “I join millions of Nigerians in saluting the Seafarers for their resilience, professionalism and dedication in sustaining the global supply chain in the face of daunting difficulties imposed by the covid pandemic. The Seafarers deserve our admiration and support in terms of conducive working environment, welfare and access to health facilities as well as protection against piracy and other forms of criminality. NIMASA is encouraged to sustain its Seafarers’ development programme with gender sensitivity to ensure that Nigeria contributes a reasonable percentage to the global demand for Seafarers.

Lagos State has taken advantage of its coastal environment in boosting socio-economic activities, attracting investors locally and internationally. Industrialization and pollution of the marine environment have combined with the covid pandemic in posing a new set of challenges on our social life as a people. We are however determined more than ever before in creating the necessary environment, not only for the maritime industry but optimum utilization of all economic opportunities for sustainable national development. This gathering of industry experts is no doubt one that is capable of charting a new course for the Nigerian maritime sector. Once again, I welcome you to Lagos, hoping that you will come back again for our usual hospitality. I wish you successful deliberations”.    

The celebration in high heart still had a remark from the secretary to the government of the federation, Mr Boss Mustapha, where he said “I feel highly honoured to be part of the 2021 World Maritime Day Celebration.

As the global community under the auspices of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) gather to celebrate the contributions of the maritime industry towards the world’s overall economy, it is important to state that the theme for this year’s celebration; Seafarers: at the core of Shipping’s Future is not just a thematic expression but a clear reminder of the centrality of the maritime industry as the transportation mode responsible for over 80 per cent of global trade, within which the Seafarer remains central”.

He praised the seafarers that despite the pandemic they still stood tall and made genuine efforts saying “At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global community was brought to a painful standstill and notably, the Seafarers have become the unsung heroes of this pandemic, as the world relied and continue to rely on them to transport more than 80% of trade, including food, medical supplies, raw materials and manufactured goods. The Seafarers deserve to be celebrated; to boldly highlight the vital role they play in our everyday lives and this year’s theme helps to re-echo this fact which is often overlooked by many.

In a bid to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Governments around the world embarked on measures such as suspension of international flights, closure of borders, ports and airports and imposition of travel restrictions. Unfortunately, these measures have led to a lack of shore leave and crew changes for Seafarers, directly impacting their capacity to travel between the ships that constitute their workplace and their country of residence. The UN has estimated that about 250,000 men and women were stranded on ships for months beyond the required period and without access to health facilities. Many more have lost their means of livelihood.

One painful lesson that must not be lost from the covid experience is the need to reorder priorities on issues related to the human element of shipping, including the safety and security of life on board ships; seafarers’ well-being, and the importance of ensuring an appropriately trained and qualified workforce ready to meet the challenges and opportunities of digitalization and automation. In this regard, the call by the UN Secretary-General for all countries to formally designate Seafarers and other marine personnel as “key workers” will alleviate their plight in many countries where restrictions are still in place for Seafarers. Keeping the Seafarers on the sea forever is truly an Invitation to a humanitarian crisis.

This pandemic is a test of our collective resolve to overcome obstacles through innovation and creativity. We must ensure that Seafarers and ships continue to move in order to keep the global economy afloat and this is the only way we will overcome and recover from the pandemic. Public and private stakeholders have roles to play in ensuring the physical and mental wellbeing of Seafarers including priority vaccination to sustain the vital global supply chain”.

He praised how much knowledge has been gained and says that maritime have the full of maritime and all its further ventures “Distinguished participants, the Nigerian maritime industry has benefitted immensely from this yearly pool of knowledge. The enthusiasm shown by renowned maritime personalities in contributing to the growth of the sector as exhibited in your participation in the celebration is unprecedented, to say the least. Government cannot do it alone, as a matter of fact, the maritime industry relies largely on the efficiency, prudence and professionalism of private investors to blossom. The government on its part will not relent in providing the necessary investment-friendly environment that will attract huge capital, on and offshore.

Let me commend the infrastructural and intellectual transformation ongoing at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron in Akwa-Ibom State. The institution, within the life of this administration, is quickly regaining its reputation as the citadel of maritime education and stop-gap for the robust training of Seafarers. The Academy is being repositioned to close the resource. The gap in maritime professionals and it is our hope that efforts aimed at securing sea time for cadets in partnership with reputable shipping companies would be realized in the not too distant future.

Nigeria is not only blessed with abundant maritime resources, but also enviable human resources comparable to any in the world. An effective and efficient Seafarer is the pride of the nation and no amount of recognition will be adequate for his sacrifice and dedication. As the world grapple with emerging challenges, I am confident that this assemblage of maritime experts will come up with credible proposals that will reposition the Nigerian maritime industry as a regional maritime hub for West and Central Africa. I want to re-assure you all of the Government’s commitment in providing the necessary support to the industry. As I wish you peaceful deliberations; it is my singular honour and pleasure to declare this event opened”.

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