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Nigerian Cadets lack sea time because local shippers’ can’t buy new vessels—Uwadia

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Leading maritime stakeholder and President, Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES), Charles Uwadia has opened up on why Nigerian Cadets are roaming the streets looking for jobs.

In an interview, he said time has come to upgrade the Maritime Academy, Oron for training of seamen on one hand, and the disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) so that indigenous shippers can acquire new vessels that can provide employments for Nigerian young sea Cadets.

He recalled that the minister of transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, had set up a management committee to look at repositioning of the Maritime Academy, Oron, saying “I don’t know if they have submitted their report, but the report was able to look at the training of cadets in Oron to meet up with international standards”.

“Yes, I agree we are ageing because we had a very good opportunity during the time of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL). We had one of the best training because we did not have any problem with sea time. During our days, cadet got sea time training offer supported by organizations such as the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

He said NNPC at that time was okay because they had some arrangement with SHELL BP, so they did their sea time with those companies. But NPA and NIWA did not have these ocean-going vessels. NIWA had ferries, while NPA had other kinds of boats, not ocean-going vessels. “They had an arrangement with the national shipping line and most of the cadets were doing their sea time and working with the national shipping line. A lot of people trained by national shipping line were not directly cadets of the national shipping line. The biggest problem we are having now is that most of these cadets after doing their mandatory courses in the school, getting vessels to do sea time is a big problem.

“The marine engineering profession and even the navigators as well are one of those courses where it is not just theory, you have to back it up with practical and to get your practical experience, you need a vessel for sea time training. Even if they go to university, get their degree and do not have sea training, they can’t go to sea. So if the government can encourage ship owners to acquire vessels and increase the capacity, then these cadets will have the opportunity to do their sea time training.

On the current challenge of proliferation of foreign surveyors holding positions in classification societies while qualified Nigerians are redundant, Uwadia averred that “The problem is still there but the latest development is that the person heading Lloyds now is a Nigerian unlike when we used to have Indians”.

“That has changed now, but there are other survey outfits where they still have these foreigners but we will continue to dialogue with them. The one that really annoys me is that our surveyors will go on-board vessels owned by Nigerians but given to Indians to manage.

“Yet our boys are crying for sea time and these vessels are owned by Nigerians but managed by Indians. From top to the bottoms, you will not see any Nigerian cadets on the vessel but the Indians have three or four cadets on board the vessel and this is wrong. So, if they are going to do cabotage trade, you must have Nigerians. Even if the captain, chief engineers are all foreigners but at least, the other ranks should have Nigerians to give them the opportunity to have their sea time.

“Our own Nigerian cadets are roaming the streets looking for vessels, because the regulating authorities are too busy doing other things,” Uwadia observed, arguing that “Until CVFF and The Maritime Fund (TMF), which are statutorily funding meant to grow the capacity of indigenous shippers are disbursed accordingly, Nigerian Cadets and even the entire local content crusade in the sector will remain a mirage because the vessel capacity of Nigerian shippers cannot drive the needed traffic in the West Coast”.

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