With very few Nigerian seafarers manning very large oceangoing vessels in global shipping, the establishment of the NLNG Ship Management Limited (NSML) by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company in 2008 is gradually changing the tide in Nigeria’s favour, writes TOLA ADENUBI
THE dearth of capacity among indigenous ship operators in Nigeria over the years has ensured that many Nigerian seafarers struggle for sea-time training, a mandatory aspect of their training, before being regarded as qualified seafarers or even allowed to practice seafaring onboard ocean-going ships.
The inability of the country to establish a national shipping line following the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) in 1995 has not helped the cause of many indigenous seafarers as many graduates from various maritime institutions have continued to roam about the streets in search of the mandatory sea-time training that has remained elusive in Nigeria.
Realizing the need to shore up the numbers of qualified and competently trained Nigerian seafarers, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) company incorporated its shipping arm, the NLNG Ship Management Limited (NSML) as a private limited liability company on October 9, 2008, to provide a wide range of shipping services, including training, manning, fleet management and consultancy services to Nigeria LNG Limited (NLNG), Bonny Gas Transport (BGT) and the sub-Saharan Africa maritime sector.
It was initially set up as a manning outfit and commenced full operations in August 2010 as NLNG Ship Manning Limited in response to rapid changes and challenges in the maritime business and the scarcity of competent ship board personnel worldwide. In 2014, following the integration of NLNG’s Vessel Management activities, a repurposed NSML was launched in October 2014 known as “NLNG Ship Management Limited,” a full-fledged ship management company. In 2017, its scope of services expanded to include NLNG Maritime Centre of Excellence (MCOE) and Terminal Management services, upon the approval of the NLNG Shipping Re-organisation Strategy and the integration of both activities into NSML.
Boosting Nigeria’s seafarers pool
Since commencing operation in 2010, after being incorporated in 2008, NSML has employed over 600 Nigerian seafarers, thereby offering many the all-important sea time exposure onboard its LNG vessels, while ensuring they are professionally engaged.
Speaking during a recent parley with newsmen, the Managing Director/CEO of NSML, Mr Abdul-Kadir Ahmed explained that over the years, cadets sent on training by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) have also been offered sea time training and employed by the company.
According to the NSML Boss, “Currently, we have a Nigerianisation policy aimed at developing Nigerian seafarers onboard the vessels that we manage. We currently manage 11 Bonny Gas Transport (BGT) vessels and we are aiming to make sure that by 2022, every seafarer onboard our vessels will be a Nigerian.
“As of 2020, we had achieved 83 per cent of that target and hopefully, by 2022, we will achieve our set goal of 100 per cent Nigerian seafarers onboard our vessels. However, we understand the international nature of our scope of business and thought it was expedient to have a mixture of foreign seafarers with Nigerians. So at the moment, we are keeping up with 85 per cent Nigerians and 15 per cent foreign seafarers. I remembered when we started; we started with 16 officers that were Nigerians. Today, we have over 600 Nigerian seafarers onboard our ships.
“Concerning the ratings onboard our vessels, we have achieved 100 per cent Nigerianisation because all the ratings onboard our vessels are Nigerians. For Officers, more than 60 per cent of them onboard our vessels are Nigerians. A lot of people have gone through our vessels both in terms of training and work.
“We are now working with NIMASA to ensure that cadets sent on their NSDP programme get the required sea time training onboard our vessels. Over 100 cadets from NIMASA NSDP programme have actually spent time on our vessel and got their mandatory sea time training onboard our vessels. We want to continue working with NIMASA in this regard so that we can play our part in developing the nation’s seafaring pool.
“As the largest employer of seafarers in Nigeria, we hope that by the time the industry continues to expand, those seafarers that have gone through our vessels for training will form the bedrock of the Nigerian maritime sector development.”
In the area of manpower development, the NSML MD explained that the firm is working in collaboration with the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) to ensure that certificates issued by the institution are accepted globally.
“NLNG has supported the Maritime Academy of Nigeria over the years, to train manpower for the industry. NLNG had engaged Warsash Maritime Academy, Southampton to review the Academy’s STCW 95 courses. Warsash Maritime Academy facilitated the accreditation process of Maritime Academy of Nigeria to enable them to issue MCA-approved certificates. The cost for these projects which includes purchase, installation and test-running equipment for the Academy was fully borne by NLNG limited.
“NLNG also spent over $100,000 on equipment, besides sponsorship of four lecturers and a Life Craft Technician to the United Kingdom for training. In 2010, NLNG made a donation worth N40 million to the Academy to facilitate training of officers in Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boat (PSCRB).
“All these are geared towards ensuring that the certificates issued to cadets by the Academy are acceptable internationally. So you can see that we have gone beyond just employing seafarers, but also looked into the certifications that they are issued during training. With the level of unemployment in the country today, it is important that we provide opportunities for Nigeria to go into seafaring and to be employable internationally.
“Just like India, Philippines, Ukraine, we have the human element to be regarded as one of the leading seafaring nations in the world. However, we need all hands on deck to achieve this,” the NSML Managing Director explained.
On the capacity training opportunities offered by the firm’s Maritime Centre Of Excellence (MCOE) located in Bonny Island, Rivers State, Mr. Abdul-Kadir Ahmed explained that, “The MCOE is a one-stop maritime consulting and training outfit set up to provide marine and shipping technical services, maritime training, maritime project management and maritime consultancy for NSML, NLNG, and for the wider maritime industry. The MCOE is endowed with a maritime centre situated on Bonny Island.
“The centre has the following national and international accreditations: NIMASA accreditation as a Maritime Training Institute (MTI) and accreditation to conduct STCW courses; Marshall Islands Flag Administration accreditation to conduct STCW and Seafarers’ training courses; DNV-GL accredited Maritime Simulator Centre and Maritime Training Centre; and ISO 9001:2015 by DNV-GL.
“Among the facilities available at our MCOE are the Full Mission Bridge Simulator, Full Mission Engine Simulator, VTIMS (Vessel Traffic Information Management System), Liquid Cargo Operation [LICOS] Simulator, Multipurpose ECDIS/GMDSS & mini-bridge simulators, and the Multipurpose mini-engine simulators.”
Clean water initiative
On how NSML hopes to give back to its immediate constituency, the marine environment, Mr. Abdul-Kadir Ahmed revealed that the firm is looking at ensuring a cleaner marine environment that will be free from plastics, debris and other maritime litters.
“The NSML “Clean Water Initiative” campaign is part of NSML’s Corporate Social Responsibility to highlight the effects of plastics, debris and other maritime litters on the waterways in Nigeria.
“The initiative centres/focuses on actions, advocacy and public awareness campaign to tackle the devastating effects of plastics, debris, litters on the aquatic ecosystem; and their overall impact on the global maritime environment. It is also an integral part of NSML’s corporate Brand Management Plan activities.
“The initial areas and scope of coverage will be NSML’s primary areas of operation (AOP) – the NLNG terminal in Bonny, as well as the ISB/OSB Jetty in Port-Harcourt. The plan is to ensure the proper clean-up and maintenance of the waterways at these AOPs; whilst extending the initiative in subsequent years to the inland waterways in Rivers State and subsequently the national space.
“The initiative was launched at the occasion to celebrate the IMO 2020 World Maritime Day, in September 2020, in line with the theme of the event – ‘Sustainable Shipping for a Sustainable Planet’. The NSML Terminal Services team kickstarted the campaign by organising a clean-up exercise of the NLNG Bonny waterfront and it was a huge success.
“Management plans to further implement and expand the ideals of this campaign in the coming years as part of the company’s overall CSR, BMP and Stakeholders Engagement plan; with the requisite approval and guidance of the Board of Directors,” the NSML boss added.
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