Seafarer certification in Nigeria meets STCW- guided global standard – Capt. Olopoenia
Maritime Academy of Nigeria has required competence for seafarer training according to IMO standard
Captain Ade Olopoenia, a master mariner and expert in maritime safety, in this chat shares his thoughts and gives important insights into the issue of integrity of the Certificate of Competency(CoC) obtained by seafarers in Nigeria. He argues that seafarers’ competency for a job at sea is guided by the same principles and same demands on the job, which is why the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) carries out periodic reviews to ensure that approved countries for seafarers training continue to meet the global standard.
A former President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners and retired Director of Safety at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), Olopoenia says a number of people certainly had spoken out of ignorance of how the system works, considering the rigorous process that backs a country’s qualification to award a CoC.
Olopoenia sheds light on what it takes for a country to qualify to be on the IMO White List as qualified to train and give certification to seafarers, and Nigeria is on that list.
He assures anyone in doubt that a seafarers’ CoC must be earned and there cannot be cutting of corners as such act can jeopardise safety at sea; a situation nobody ever wants to experience.
What are the concerns about the seafarers’ CoC issued in Nigeria?
I personally felt bad reading some news item de-marketing Nigeria’s Certificate of Competency. All those talks are just the ignorance about how that system works.
I have the knowledge and competence to talk about how the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watch- keeping (STCW) works, because I have been involved with IMO matters for a long time.
Share your views on the issue of comparison about Nigeria’s CoC and insinuations of rejections.
For people who do not know, they should kindly desist from such comparison or insinuation that a CoC from some country is more credible, because it does not hold any water in the real sense of it. I want to look at it from three different angles; the first angle would be to look at how certificates are recognised or accepted by the IMO.
The CoC is governed by the STCW, and one of the requirements of the STCW is that any country that wants to issue CoC under the STCW must go through rigorous process and that process is what we call ‘White Listing.’
After a country must have met all the requirements of the STCW, it will then be put on the IMO ‘White List.’
As I am talking to you now, Nigeria is on the ‘White List’ of the IMO, as one of the countries that have met all the requirements for issuing CoC to seafarers.
What factors must a country meet to qualify to be on the IMO White List?
There are several provisions in the STCW and those provisions are that a country should have proper training centre and the cadets there would follow approved course of study in line with the provisions of the STCW.
Which ones do we have now in Nigeria?
Nigeria is certified to conduct any exams because we have met all the requirements of the STCW and that is why we are on the White List.
It is left for Nigeria to decide what level of certificates it wants to be issuing.
They must have adequate facilities; they must have qualified lectures and qualified examiners. There must be administrative structures for the examination of seafarers.
With regards to the STCW, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron is the institution that Nigeria uses to get the White-listing. As it is today, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron is recognised by the IMO for carrying out training in that regard. However, there are some short courses, called mandatory courses; two days, three days courses.
NIMASA has accredited a number of training centres to carry out those training; they are not as rigorous as what the Academy is doing, because the Academy is doing National Diploma courses in Marine Engineering and Nautical Studies. Those are two years programmes. In essence, the Academy is accredited by IMO for the purpose of the STCW in Nigeria.
Once you are on the White List, from to time the IMO comes into the country to do reviews of processes; they go to NIMASA, look at how the process how, they go to the Academy, see the process. If they find any issues there they would point it out for corrections to be made.
So, as we speak now, if you go to the IMO site, you will see the list of countries and the last entries was in 2006 and Nigeria is still on that IMO ‘While List.’
On recognition of CoC of countries?
With regards to acceptability or approval of countries, one of the provisions of the STCW is that it is on regulation 1/10; which is how you recognise certificates of other countries.
For us master mariners now, we had our certificates abroad. But under the regulation 1/10, it says that for example, if you have the CoC from Nigeria, you are only expected to work on just Nigerian registered vessels, because that is what the certificate is for. If you now want to work in a vessel owned by another country, maybe a ship owned by South Africa for instance and you have a Nigerian certificate, the regulation 1/10 says there must be a recognition agreement between Nigeria and South Africa.
Even though the two of you are on the IMO While List, you are supposed to look at the processes that South Africa has in place or vis-visa. South Africa may demand for explanation on how the Nigerian processes of examination are done. If they are satisfied, they would now recognise your certificate and there would be a formal agreement.
You will ask yourself why you want to work on foreign ships. The reason is that maybe Nigeria does not have foreign going ships. The process of having agreement for certificates is a laborious one , not one that could be done overnight; there has to be meetings with IMO.
For instance, there are lots of foreign vessels on our offshore waters. So, if those vessels are to be crewed by Nigeria, there must be an agreement. They would now appraise Nigeria and they would sign the agreement. That process would establish recognition.
I will call it a question of convenience for both countries. For instance, the UK, most of their vessels are flagged outside, so it would be in their interest to have other nationals to work on their vessels. Now, not all British citizens are going to sea. So, they have shortage of seafarers. If Nigeria approaches the UK for such recognition to enable seafarers work on their vessels, all they would need to do is have the checks done. They may just want to see the Academy and NIMASA to know the process.
What should the culture of learning be like?
A month ago, they talked of failure among seafarers. But, they must know that the CoC is not like degree or diploma. Once you get the CoC, it means that you can serve aboard, you can begin to do what is called ‘Keeping a Watch’ which you do for eight hours. So, for the examinations, it is about who actually knows what they are doing. Nobody in their right frame of mind would award a seafarer that certificate; the CoC must be earned and there are no compromises.
Of course, seafarers must be conscious of the qualities needed; the syllabus is comprehensive, and for some courses, you must score up to 70 per cent pass mark. Scoring anything less in such courses means a repeat, because the seafarer must be competent to go for on-board operations.