maritime Shipping Transport

How we prevented sea importation of virus’

The Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the agency, through proactive measures, prevented the importation of coronavirus into the country through sea trade.

Jamoh, who spoke at the weekend via webinar on an occasion tagged ‘Day of the Seafarer’, said the seafarers face a lot of challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, including stringent work conditions in some countries, movement restrictions, lockdowns, crew change difficulties, fatigue and seasickness, and disruption of contracts.

He said: “We issued COVID-19 guidelines to incoming ships towards ensuring that there is no importation of the virus by sea. NIMASA was the first in West Africa to issue a COVID-19 marine notice.

“As a regulator, we have taken steps to alleviate the suffering of the seafarers. NIMASA was among the first government agencies to declare seafarers as being on essential duty, and we published this in a marine notice.

The NIMASA chief said there are policies to improve the quality of training and certification of seaferes, as well as for their remuneration.

The session featured local and international participation, with the key speaker and consultant at Transbasin Limited, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Karen Ogidigben Onimisi, and Nigerian Labour Attaché at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Switzerland, Essah Aniefiok Etim, calling for better welfare and support for seafarers.

He said: “Policies are in the pipeline to improve the quality of training and certificates we give to the seafarers. We are taking steps to standardise the curriculum of our training institutions in line with international standards.

We are also working on increasing the remuneration of our seafarers. These policies would be announced as soon as we complete work on them.”

He said seafarers were among the most courageous people in the world, stressing that the theme for this year’s Day of the Seafarer, “Seafarers are key workers,” is a “testament to the fact that the world cannot do without seafarers.

Seafarers hold the key to humanity’s survival on a day-to-day basis; they hold the key to our wellbeing in this time of COVID-19 period.”

Jamoh lauded the seafarers for sustaining the global supply chain, distributing urgently needed medical supplies with enormous risk to their lives and families.

“The seafarers are unsung heroes; they are also our invisible heroes. We see their handwork everyday and everywhere in agricultural machinery, the food we eat, and the unbroken run of the manufacturing base, despite the global lockdown.

“We challenge ship-owners and employers of seafarers to take necessary proactive measures to lessen the pains of seafarers.

“We also walked in lockstep with the IMO (international Maritime Organisation) to tailor all our marine notices in the early period of COVID-19 towards supporting the extension of the validity of seafarers’ certificates, crew change, guidelines, procedure and their designation as essential workers.

“It is said a good sailor weathers the storm he cannot avoid; COVID-19 was a storm Seafarers couldn’t avoid. As tried and tested seamen and women, our seafarers have continued to weather this storm for us. We celebrate you today.

Nigeria thanks you, the world appreciates you, NIMASA as a regulator will never abandon you. We will support you all the way,” he said.

Karen, who is Director, Maritime Sector Consultant at Transbasin Limited, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, urged the international community to render  assistance to seafarers, especially during the  pandemic.

She commended NIMASA for supporting seafarers during the pandemic and emphasised the need for the country to develop post-pandemic measures to make the country’s seafarers internationally marketable and competitive.

Karen said: “Seafarers are part of the global supply chain and should have access to shore leave at ports in accordance with global regulations.

There is also a need to look at improved ways to mitigate the challenges that COVID-19 has brought before us, commencing with digitalisation of our processes, including local training and licensing of Nigerian seafarers.”

Etim, who is ILO Nigerian Labour Attaché, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations in Switzerland, sought for better working conditions for seafarers.

He urged greater opportunities to make their voices heard, saying they should be encouraged through appropriate rewards and compensations.

As part of the activities marking the day, NIMASA donated to the seafarers items that included essential commodities,  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), facemasks, and hand sanitisers.

The Day of the Seafarer, marked June 25 every year worldwide, is a day set aside by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to celebrate seafarers and recognise their invaluable contribution to the global economy.

This year’s virtual event, themed, “Seafarers are Keyworkers”, held via WebEx, specifically draws attention to the critical role and challenges of seafarers in the COVID 19 period.

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