What looked like a mere WhatsApp group was created in 2018 by three young seafarers to address stereotypes encountered by Nigerian marine officers. The group began with a little over 60 members, all licenced seafarers. They had few things in common. Although qualified seafarers, they were stigmatised and generally considered incompetent. In spite of their training, the world still doubted their capacity so, they felt a need to prove their work. Many of them were in need of jobs and never believed they could work on international vessels with a Nigerian license.
Jeremiah Emmanuel, Vincent Ajala and Franklin Anoyika lead a movement that is determined to change the narrative. With pockets of efforts here and there, the results are beginning to show. Nigerians are finding more opportunities to sail, even on international vessels and that WhatsApp group has since moved to Telegram where as at the last count, it housed 1055 Nigerian mariners.
One of the founders- Jeremiah Emmanuel- a Nigerian Seafarer who works on-board as a Licenced Electro-Technical Officer (ETO) shares their experience and how Nigerian seafarers now see light in the tunnel of their career. Hope you find this piece interesting!
TNMN: How Did Your Group Begin?
JEREMIAH: We began as a WhatsApp group, sharing job opportunities among ourselves. We realised that young seafarers (officers)/NSDP Officers were finding it hard to get jobs and HR/Crewing agents specifically require recommendation from other officers they have worked with. Such referrals imply trust especially when ship owners still doubt if Nigerians can do the Job and HR/crewing agents have to convince them that Nigerians are competent. We also found out that some of our colleagues known to the crewing agents are almost always engaged when the crewing agents call so, we decided that instead of letting the offer go or restricting it to let’s say five people out of which some are unavailable, we better create a group to post job offers and create opportunity for others who although qualified are out of work.
TNMN: So, you focused on addressing stereotypes and creating jobs for your colleagues?
JEREMIAH: The local and international maritime Community had stereotyped Nigerian Seafarers as not educated and not competent to handle some vessels. This is an issue we are addressing. We are trained and some of us have also worked in various kinds of local and international vessels. For us, rebranding the image of the Nigerian Seafarer is critical. We do not have the luxury of another option, we must change the dialogue and show the truth as it is today which is that Nigerian seafarers are competent.
During the 2020 Day of the seafarer, a ship owner said Nigerians are not competent. Well, he gave his reasons and as a person, I don’t like to argue with people because they may be talking from experience. Some people in our group were angry but I calmed them down and told them it is now up to us to prove him wrong. We need to be exemplary by changing our ways and letting him know that the Nigerian Seafarers are educated, competent and competing all over the world.
We are also bent on gradually filling up the void created by the lack of jobs (local and international). This is why we created the WhatsApp group. We post job opportunities and apply for them in numbers. There is advantage in numbers because someone might be very competent and up to date but without knowledge or access to the advert or the Crewing Company, they won’t get it.
Our forum has also been one focused on educating Nigerian Seafarers. You won’t believe that when we started, we found out that some Nigerians believed they cannot get international jobs with the licence issued by NIMASA! We thank God that’s a thing of the past now. Nigerians with NIMASA licence are now working and competing globally. We have members who are working and getting jobs in the Middle East and other African Nations with the Nigerian licence.
Also, gender bias exist. When it comes to employing ladies, Nigerian companies are still holding back. So, when we have any lady on-board, we try as much as possible to assist them because any mistake from them might ruin future opportunities for other ladies. And that’s part of what we preach in our group. We thank God we have also been able to encourage and assist a lot of female Seafarers.
TNMN: Considering all you have said; the vision of your group is…
JEREMIAH: To rebrand the image of Nigerian Seafarers. To prove our competence. We also want to educate our colleagues on available opportunities and how to utilise them. We want to see Nigerian seafarers competing on the global space with other seafarers from Europe, Asia, other parts of Africa and the entire world. We want to see Nigerian Seafarers working in all parts of the world, not just on Nigerian waters.
TNMN: Is there a way Government and Private Organisations can support you?
JEREMIAH: I would love Government to listen more to us. We have a lot of firsthand experiences to share which could positively influence policies. We need government to actively participate in promoting Nigerian seafarers. We need government to speak for the quality of Nigerian seafarers. The current DG of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh is doing well. He has listening ears and is very active online but more can be done when it comes to our certification because the Nigerian Management Seafarer Licence still has some limitations. There are also many untapped fields like the main Fleet especially containers vessels, Bulk carriers and RORO Vessels where Nigerian Seafarers are lacking. I believe government can work with us and we will give a firsthand account and possibly advice on how to move forward. Either way, seafarers really need government’s backing.
Shipowners also need to understand that we are competent. Nigerian Seafarers are up-to-date and we keep educating ourselves. Moreso, getting good hands require good salary. Many of us have done lots of courses internationally and locally to be able to compete with counterparts from other parts of the worlds and these courses doesn’t come cheap. That said, there are shipowners and crewing agents who have supported us, given us great opportunities for which we are grateful. The pledge we make to ourselves in the group is to always make the best use of opportunities handed to us and make our benefactors proud.
For us, capacity development is premium and encourage our members to go for courses and upgrade. We stress the need to be up-to-date when it comes to certifications, new regulations and innovations. We share knowledge in the group. If anyone on-board has a challenge, he/she can bring it to the forum and people will advise him/her on how to tackle it.
How do you ensure integrity of the group is kept intact?
First, we have made sure any job or information anyone shares is free. We are doing it for charity. We do not demand for money. It is one of our rules as a group and by God’s grace, we have been able to assist Nigerian Seafaring Officers with more than 300 Jobs (locally and internationally). It is free and we have not had any issue of Fraud or demand for money before getting any job or information. Everything done is for free. We will be launching our website very soon as that will also encourage openness and easy access up to date information for free.
How many seafarers have benefited from your group’s job postings and referrals, and how many have worked on international waters as a result?
I can’t give an actual figure, but as at the last count, more than 100 people have benefitted and more than 10 Nigerian ETOs are currently on International waters. For other officers, I don’t have the precise statistics. It will be good to mention here that I recently chatted with a Crewing Agent in one of the Gulf Nation, he said and I quote “I have many Nigerian Crew”. I am glad that Nigerian mariners are pushing the frontiers now, I am also happy for the contributions we are able to make as a group in this regard.