Thirty-nine-years-old Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) is facing inadequate manpower and infrastructure to compete with its counterparts in The Philippines, India, Egypt, England and thevUnited States. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
For close to four decades, the decision by some cadets at the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) to proceed to the second phase of their mandatory training on board ships after due academic certification has been a tall order.
The academy was established in 1979 to train shipboard officers, nautical engineers, marine engineers, ratings and shorebased management personnel to serve the maritime community locally and internationally. Also in 1988, the academy’s mandate was expanded to train all categories of workers in the country’s maritime industry.
By the end of 2008, the institution had trained about 4,300 merchant navy officers and more than 65,000 other workers in marine engineering, nautical science, maritime transport and business studies, ship building, port operations, marine insurance, maritime law, maritime security, and other specialised maritime courses.
However, challenges ranging from poor staffing, acute shortage of skilled manpower, underfunding conflicts, poor management, inadequate infrastructure, training equipment, training vessel, Radar Arpa Simulators (RAS) and access to sea time have put the academy on a wrong track among its global competitors.
The Rector of the academy, Commodore Emma Effedua, said recently in Oron that International Maritime Organisation (IMO) was gradually losing hope in Nigeria producing quality seafarers.
It was learnt that the institution still depends on some phased out equipment acquired 25 years ago at its foundry shops to train students. Moreover, while it is one lecturer to 200 students, it was revealed that eight cadets were being assigned to one machine instead of three. Furthermore, the academy has no capacity to award a Class 1 Certificate of Competency (CoC) to its graduates because of inadequate facilities.
Worried by the number of management staff on acting positions, the academy’s Board Chairman, Mr. Ademola Seriki, also complained last month during his inaugural inspection of the school that there were too many officers, who were handicapped in discharging their duties effectively.
The chairman vowed to put an end to such practice in the school. Also, during an oversight function in March, 2018, the Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Mr Mohammed Umar-Bago, advised the management to sack 83 staff of the school, who were engaged without due process.
The chairman said that the academy was a special school that needs professionals to train cadets, not just employing people that were not relevant to the mandate of the academy. He said: “Sack them if their employment did not go through due process; that is how touts are employed.” Umar-Bago explained that the academy was over bloated with 700 staff.
Also, Seriki who expressed disappointment with the level of abandoned projects and obsolete infrastructure in the academy, stressed the need to replace the school’s outdated equipment with modern ones. He said: “I am disappointed over abandoned projects and the vast areas that have not been developed. We have a lot to do. Look at this 30 acres expanse of land, nothing has been done here. “So we have a lot of work to do. We are so excited about it, but still we are challenged. The issue of infrastructure is to be faced. “We cannot take away nautical engineering and marine engineering from maritime studies.
The President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, had before now traced one of the problems of the academy to poor funding.
He lamented that the demise of the Nigeria National Shipping Line (NNSL) had contributed to the problem of the school.
According to him, the disappearance of fleet of vessels that provided sea- time training opportunities for cadets had led to a huge gap in the maritime human capacity development in Nigeria.
The president added that there was no articulated programme to ensure effective link between the institution and the existing fleet of vessels in the country’s maritime domain. He recalled that the cadets from the academy were automatically exposed to a 12-month mandatory sea-time onboard the various vessels operated by the NNSL and this gave birth to well seasoned professionals, who have been manning sensitive positions in the maritime industry.
Ogbeifun faulted Federal Government’s training of seafarers abroad, adding that training of seafarers and cadets was the responsibility of ship owners and shipping companies.
Seriki proposed that the school should embark on free training of stakeholders who will in turn provide the needed equipment to the institution.
The chairman also called for expansion of the school’s laboratory to make the facility more conducive for the cadets as well as equipping of the e-library and the ICT resource centre. He stressed the need to arrest the deteriorating state in line with its mandate and core values. Seriki said that the academy should partner with all relevant stakeholders to enable it meet international standard. Also, Effedua stated that restructuring and repositioning the school was the only solution to move the school forward.
For instance, the rector proposed that some of the buildings in the school should be converted to hostels to accommodate students and those on short courses, noting that proceeds from the hostel could be used to execute other critical projects. The rector disclosed that management was already at the point of getting permission to effect the conversion.
Effedua said: “We need to put the necessary infrastructure in place; we must really work in synergy with our sister agencies like the Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), shipowners associations and others to facilitate the provision of facilities, technical services, capacity-building and engagement of qualified cadets from the academy. Seriki said that the academy must build a relationship that would result in acquiring assets, which will be of benefits to everyone.
Nigeria should focus on capacity building in the maritime industry rather than relying on foreign manpower.
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