Stakeholders’ discourse around the need to acquire vessels for the practical training of cadets who are yearly churned out of maritime schools in Nigeria seems unending. As much as training vessels are legitimate needs, whose responsibility is it? What are the IMO (International Maritime Organisation) requirements for such vessels? Are there limitations to owning training vessels? Can simulated trainings replace sea time?
The Rector, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Commodore Duja Emmanuel Effedua, in this interview with The Nigerian Maritime News (TNMN) addresses this and many more issues surrounding Maritime Education.
Hope you find this interesting!
Some stakeholders see a pressing need for the Academy to own its own training vessel. Is this something you are considering?
The answer to this question is quite deep because you have to look at your situation before you decide on your essential needs and desirable ones. The Academy would be glad to own a vessel but there are many things involved. How do we get the funding for that? It is expensive to run a vessel and we have limited funds. Let me will explain. The Arab Maritime Academy has a training vessel in its assets and that is because the entire region Gulf nations donated it to the Academy and collectively funds the running of the vessel. This vessel is used for the training of the cadets from the region and few slots are allocated to other Nations outside their alliance.
South Africa bought a vessel for its Academy for the same purpose, but could not sustain it. They went into talks with Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Senegal to see if these countries can jointly maintain and run the ship for the collective use of their cadets, but sadly, the talks were inconclusive. That vessel is currently not in use because of the high cost of maintenance. So, can you imagine our Academy saddled with such a huge challenge? Also, not all ships can qualify as training vessels, though most can be used but the power rating must be at least 750kw (STCW 1978 AS AMENDED).
Again, if you have the vessel, who will man the vessel? Are we the ones? If we are not the ones, who will pay the people who will man the vessel? Who fuels it? Now for a vessel to sail from Port Harcourt to Lagos, it takes about 30 hours trip (training cruise). To finance that voyage, you need about six tankers of diesel to fuel a medium sized vessel from Port Harcourt to Lagos but it will not come back with it. You have to fuel it again for its return voyage. Now each one of those tankers cost about eight million naira (N8, 000,000) so, when you multiply that by six or ten, you are talking about close to eighty million naira (N80, 000,000) for let’s say four days trip. Who is going to foot that bill and where is the money going to come from? Using comparative advantage, is it not cheaper to pay ten million (N10, 000,000) to someone who already has a vessel that will ply that route for some purpose and say okay, use the money for feeding and augment your fuelling and let us have our cadets onboard? That training you will get, you do not need to own a vessel to have it.
The issue is this; we do not want to get involved with the purchase of vessels. If NIMASA (Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency) wants to buy, fine; if any stakeholder has any vessel, our job is pre-sea training. If the opportunity is there for our cadets to have sea exposure, why not? This is actually something the maritime administration or private investors should think about. If a man has a vessel today that can be used for that purpose, not only our cadets, all seafarers even those who do not have sea time, will scramble to go on board and the ship owner will not lose. We prefer to have those who have operational ships take our cadets and we pay them for their services and move on. This why we partnered with SOAN (Ship Owners Association of Nigeria). We have by this partnership given our cadets to sea exposure and not sea time.
Can the cadets’ training on simulators acquired by the Academy replace sea time on vessels?
No. The simulators are hands-on training. First, the cadets, using the simulators will understand the rudiments and all they need to do when they get into the actual situation. On the simulator, the environmental conditions like wave, rain, fog, accidents, all of them can be simulated. Collisions, MAN OVER BOARD, RULES OF THE ROAD etc can be simulated. On the simulators, you can manoeuvre and when you have collisions or run aground, it is at zero cost. Assets are not damaged and lives are not lost. The simulator will just tell you collision, exercise failed. Then, you lose nothing but if it is your car or ship that collides, you know what that means. People can die, materials could be lost, and that is why pilots at the initial training go on simulator first before graduating into their solo flights.
Simulators are excellent because you have an idea of what is going to happen as an instructor, the controls are the same as when you are on board, the cadets are eager to discover what tasks and situation they would find themselves etc. And after the exercise is done, everybody moves to what is called the briefing room where each person’s exercise is played back showing their errors. Then, you simulate the very part of where they failed again and allow them to encounter the same situation again. But in summary, real time hands-on training remains the best because one will realise that the situation is real, fears are gradually conquered and trainees become more confident. Simulators cannot replace training ships but can inspire the confidence of the trainees.
The worry for most people is that we have many cadets who have not had their sea time, and we need to solve the problem…
Yes but whose business is it to get people to have the sea time really? It is not the business of the Academy. We can give sea exposure but not sea time. Sea time and sea exposure are two different things. Sea exposure is aimed at supporting classroom instructions while sea time is aimed at enhancing the competence of ex cadets and other seafarers.
The people you are seeing on the streets were short changed by the system due to poor planning by past Management of NIMASA. They had good intentions but the ideas were poorly executed. The Academy was also reckless with the admission of cadets. Over 1,800 cadets were admitted per stream. Upon graduation, where do they go? Can ship owners employ all of them? We have pictures of overcrowded classrooms. When I came, instead of admitting 1,800 cadets, we took only 300, a drastic cut down from 1800 to 300. They said we can’t do it but we have done that twice. Ideally, they are supposed to take a manageable number so that when they come out, the demand for them will be higher than the supply and nobody will be unemployed. IMO (International Maritime Organisation) alerted the world not just Nigeria that countries should reduce the intake of cadets because the system is becoming too bloated worldwide and with many seafarers idle all over the world not only in Nigeria.
Given that warning from IMO, it is only right for maritime academies to do things differently. In this regard, what other advantage(s) do your cadets have?
Our cadets that we are graduating are better off today. To make them more competitive, we make them do Mandatory Short Courses once they graduate. They do not pay for it. So, when they graduate, they are eminently qualified and have advantage over other those in the industry who are yet to do these courses. Ship owners will be more interested in picking ready made than picking people they will still have to train. It is cheaper for them.
In one of our recent shows at Maritime TV, the Chairman of the National Seafarers Welfare Board advised that Nigeria should work towards having seafarers fill up the officer cadre. He said the ratings cadre has been taken over by the Philippines…
I agree with him.