Merchant Navy urges NIMASA to enforce guideline on crew change


…Counsels seafarers to identify with Unions

The Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association has called on the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to take steps towards enforcing the guideline it released recently so as to enhance movement of seafarers in order to facilitate seamless crew change onboard vessels.

The President of the association, Mr. Bob Youso who made the call in a telephone interview with our correspondent on Monday said the call had become necessary as most of the companies were yet to comply with the guideline in a bid to avoid cost.

Youso acknowledged that the difficulties encountered by the seafarers with regard to crew change in the wake of the lockdown had improved for the better thanks to the issuance of the guideline by NIMASA.

According to him, “I may say that there is an improvement because one; there is a guideline that has been put in place for all the ship owners to follow and as far as I am concerned, there are some companies that are complying, some maybe refused to because they are trying to avoid cost. But there are some reputable companies that are fully facilitating the crew change.

“So, I urge NIMASA to enforce and implement the guideline to make sure that companies comply with the guideline and to make sure that all the seafarers that are supposed to come up because so many people have overstayed and it is left for the companies to carry out the implementation. No more NIMASA again, the government has done its own part; it is now left for the ship owners to do what has been agreed. So, I want NIMASA to make sure that those ship owners implement what was agreed.”

He however blamed the seafarers for contributing to their plight by failing to identify themselves with the two recognized two seafarers’ unions namely; the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association and the Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MWUN) which were statutory bound to fight their course at a time like this.

The President contended that since NIMASA as a regulatory agency had put in place legal instrument to enhance their job, the seafarers should take advantage of it by identifying with the unions so as to ensure that their interests were protected at all times.

“That is where we seafarers also find ourselves to be blamed. NIMASA is a regulatory body, it has put in place the law but the seafarers too should know who they are running to. Who is carrying their problem? They must ask themselves, who they have, who is their sole guardian because when you look at the MLC, it stated that seafarers must have representatives and the federal government and the ITF, everybody knows that there are two seafarers representative bodies, NIMASA knows; Nigerian Merchant Navy Association and the Maritime Workers’ Union but ask the seafarers, are they affiliated to these bodies? Are they members of these bodies? If you are not a member of the Merchant Navy Officers Association and you have problem, where will you run to?

“NIMASA is a regulatory body, ship owners go there and seafarers also go there, everybody carries their problem there but it will be very difficult for individual seafarer to carry his problem there. The two unions are just like legal representative to the seafarers. So, it is high time the seafarers run to where they belonged to. Have you seen any oil worker that doesn’t belong to PENGASSN or who doesn’t belong to NUPENG? Or have you seen any road transport worker that doesn’t belong to any road transport union? It is not all about being at sea and crying and complaining and speaking grammar, it is all about knowing your right, where do you belong?

“We have done what we are supposed to do by meeting NIMASA, sitting with NIMASA and guideline has come, that is what we can do. Those companies that are under us, we are monitoring them and we try to make sure that this guideline is enforced and companies comply because we are monitoring our members there”, he added.

Recall that the Management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recently designated seafarers and dockworkers as essential workers who should be exempted from travel restrictions in line with the newly endorsed protocols by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) designed to lift barriers to crew changes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The exemptions are contained in a new guideline developed and published by the agency to support essential services in Nigeria’s shipping sector. The guideline states that the jobs of dockworkers at the country’s seaports, terminals, and jetties are essential to the national economy and, therefore, dockworkers should be granted passage between their places of abode and the seaports/terminals and jetties to perform their duties.

The advice also declares that seafarers are on essential duty and as such exempted from the curfew and travel restrictions, which may hinder necessary movement for crew change. It directs companies employing the services of seafarers to provide special and dedicated means of transportation to convey the seafarers, adding that such transport system must be disinfected within the recommended minimum hours.

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