For decades, Nigeria battled the dearth of core maritime professionals- captains, seafarers, marine engineers, navigational officers to mention a few. At many forums, experts lamented that the generation of mariners was aging out. The worry was about what would become of a ‘maritime nation’ without seafarers. The shortage of seafarers have been also traced to absence of a national fleet especially since the defunct Nigerian national Shipping Line.

 

Thankfully, to address the dreaded situation, pockets of efforts have begun to spring up. Government, in the last decade introduced the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) which although has not been void of criticism has been applauded.  Most remarkable perhaps is the coming to board of a not-for-profit called Ocean Ambassadors Foundation (OAF). The OAF, a catch-them-young initiative was founded by Hon. Olaitan Williams. The OAF through mentoring, competitions -debates and quizzes, and rewards- sways the interest of teens in Nigeria to the maritime sector.

 

Some students on OAF 2022 Career Tour on Board a Tug Boat at LTT

The average Nigerian child seldom has knowledge of or interacts with the ocean except for the typical visit to the beach for celebrations. The percentage of children who see the waters as a resource or means of livelihood is scanty, professions like the medicine, law, accountancy, being a chef, a soldier resonate more. Some young ones from littoral communities where fishing is originally an enterprise consider fishing less fanciful and jettison it once grown. Opportunities the industry seemed a secret best known to children whose parents had sprouting careers in the maritime industry or those from riverine communities.

 

The Ocean Ambassadors Foundation is focused on making teens carve to be a part of the sector. Its educative programmes such as the weekly mentoring sessions, annual national maritime quiz, excursions to ports, and maritime themed children’s day events unveil the industry to the children.

 

The 2020 OAF national maritime quiz was its maiden edition, and with the Pandemic raging the world, it held virtually. It was an educational palliative by the NGO which had over 2000 SS1 and SS2 students (both sexes) participate. In 2021, the OAF’s call was to woo the girl child into maritime industry which was largely male-dominated and every week, the group brought in experts from different areas within the industry to mentor the children. 2021 was exclusively a year the OAF nurtured female secondary students. Same year, the Foundation’s Children’s Day celebration was titled; “School to Sea for the Girl Child”.  One of the favourites for children is the annual Career Tour which gives the youngsters a peek into the industry-  they visit seaports, board and ride on vessels, interact with Captains of Industry to mention a few. March 17, 2022 was one of those days. The OAF 2022 career tour for students was titled; “Fisheries & Aquaculture-one of the drivers of 2030 Blue Economy.” It was a programme that encouraged the Girl Child to break biases in line with the International Women’s Day theme. The students had remarkable honour of boarding tug boats belonging to the Nigerian Ports Authority, one of which was captained by West Africa’s first female tug boat Captain – Ebinipre Canus. The tour was followed by a seminar which was centred on Aquaculture and fisheries to both female secondary school students and youth corpers at the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC). Another pro-girl child event themed “Seafaring and Digitalisation in Maritime Services: Is it a career for the Girl Child?” has been slated for May 30, a day in which OAF hopes to mark the annual children’s day.

 

The Ocean Ambassadors Foundation has so far championed about thirty-two events from its inception to date. The initiative clear demystifies the maritime sector and fans a flame in children that pushes them to want to explore the sector. This is obviously an initiative determined to tackle the dearth of seafarers. As the OAF drives its vision and mission of creating awareness and interest in the lucrative maritime industry among secondary school children, may the youths find robust careers in the industry

 

 

 

 

 

 

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