Interview: “How Maritime Agencies neglect Master Mariners to industry detriment in Nigeria”

Capt. Tajudeen Alao, President of the NAMM(Right) and Capt. Onyebuke, First Vice-President of the NAMM 



Expressing concern that maritime agencies in Nigeria have continually preferred engaging foreigners for jobs that they could handle, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt. Tajudeen Alao, in this interview, said that such foreign practitioners were never subjected to any professional clearance to ascertain claims of their expertise. He also talks on other industry matters including having the requisite education and practical experience to train the nation’s cadets on sea time according to global standards.

What exactly are the issues causing the maritime agencies in Nigeria to prefer engaging foreign master mariners when members of your association are here?

It is baffling, because we have a lot to offer in terms of human capacity development. Some of our people were trained in John Holt, Elder Demster, Guinea Gulf, which were British Ships. Some people were trained on Palm Line, and others on Black Star Line. Before we went through these training, we did correspondence courses while we were at sea and then back to school. We had international exposure. So, it baffles me now when people say Nigerians cannot advise them about training of cadets, and they go out to take foreign consultants, who are not even qualified. You have the inland waterways qualification, which is up to river master, you have near coastal, which is coastal trade and the foreign-going. Some of these people who parade themselves are not even as qualified as we are. These are the people that our government patronize, and they mislead them because they are there to make money.


How can the Nigerian Master Mariners contribute meaningfully to the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) in Oron? 

To me, we should equip MAN, Oron, instead of sending people all over the world. Today, we should train people like us as examiners, who will now train the people. The facilities are there, but the empowerment is lacking. We are still saying the same thing. We had instructors who were Chief Officers. When MAN, Oron was established we had River Andoni, River Amada, River Benue, River Niger, Ammadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe.  These ships were used to train Nigerian Cadets. There were also Ebony, Gongola, where there were about 10 to 15 cadets sent there for training, and there were correspondent courses. We went through this tutelage. Today, Nigerians say Nigerians cannot train. Go out there and let Nigerians know that the master mariners say they are trained and qualified enough to train officers and examine them, because we went through the tutelage. Here, we give mentorship to new cadets. When they come we advise them, giving them career counselling because when you are trained as a master mariner you are versatile; you can be a lecturer, you can be a surveyor, maritime administrator. You can be port captain in a shipping company, cargo handling.

Considering different operations in the sector, what do you consider most pressing for immediate attention?

Look at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) today, there is no single master mariner there. Look at our waters. So, what is NIWA doing? It is inland navigation. They are only after giving operational permit. But the job is more than that. Navigation, safe navigation. How qualified are those driving the boats? Accidents every day. We heard of how the Managing Director of NIWA suffered a rough ride on the waterways the other day.Ironically,  we have the charts of all the inland waters, from Baro, Newman, to Lokoja. But they don’t consult us. They don’t deal with us as far as this water is concerned. 
The government should make use of the master mariners and we shall offer our advice. Even to lecture in Man, Oron. We have written to them. We have offered to support, yet nothing. That is why we are insisting on the Interim Management Committee Report on MAN, Oron. We had written to the Minister and told him the outcome of this must be to the latter, but no reply yet. Up till today, The DG NIMASA has also not given us audience three years after. Yet, all over the world, they recognise us. The honourable Company of Master Mariners recognise us. It is in London, in Vancouver, in Hong Kong, South Africa, Australia. If you are not a master mariner you cannot enter there.

Capt. Alao is hopeful that with the support of qualified members of the association, more indigenous master mariners would be engaged to take on jobs in the maritime industry in Nigeria, even as their efforts when recognised would add value to the cadets through training.