Socio-economic activities in three riverine communities of Rivers State have suffered a setback, as commercial boat owners and drivers embarked on a three-day warning strike to protest frequent acts of insecurity on the waterways.
The affected communities are Bille, Bonny and Bakana.
Recall that two passenger boats were attacked last Saturday and three persons killed by suspected sea pirates along Port Harcourt/Bille routes, causing panic among boat drivers and travellers.
Our correspondent reports that the warning strike which began on Wednesday, had caused passengers to be stranded at the various jetties across the state, as boat owners and drivers shut down operations.
The affected jetties include, Bille, Abonnema Wharf, Nembe and Okirika.
The Tide also reports that business activities in the affected areas suffered a setback as boats which were supposed to convey foodstuffs to the communities were disallowed to load.
Condemning the pirates attacks on passengers, Chairman, Boat Owners Association, Okirika Branch, Mr. George Ota, said his branch embarked on a two-hour strike on Wednesday as a mark of solidarity with Billie and Bonny Boat Owners Association whose boats were attacked by sea robbers.
Ota, who called on the security agencies to beef up security along the affected routes, said maritime operators were regularly attacked by the robbers and valuables carted away.
The chairman said its sister branches had embarked on a three-day strike to register their grievances over the attacks.
He noted that goods and property valued at millions of naira were carted away by robbers during the attack without the Navy and the marine police effecting any arrest.
Ota said that drivers and passengers plying the aforementioned routes were in constant fear while travelling on the waterways.
Also speaking, a stranded passenger, Mr. Jumbo Yellow, called on the state government to deploy gunboats to patrol the creeks and rivers in the riverine communities to protect lives and property.
He said, “Our lives are now in danger, we called on the state government to come to our rescue, especially those travelling to Billie, Bonny, Bakana and Okirika axis by boat.”
The Tide reports that pregnant mothers and their children were seen stranded at Okirika jetty from 9am to 11am on Wednesday as boat owners shut down operations at the jetty.
Maritime: Nigeria Developing Policies To Improve Seafarers’ Training, Certification, Remuneration – Nimasa Dg …Says Seafarers Are Key To Humanity’s Survival, Wellbeing Amid COVID-19
Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has disclosed that there are policies in the pipeline to improve the quality of training and certification, as well as remuneration for the country’s seafarers. Jamoh stated this on Thursday in Lagos during a webinar hosted by NIMASA to mark the Day of the Seafarer.
The session featured local and international participation, with the key speaker and consultant at Transbasin Limited, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Karen Ogidigben Onimisi, and Nigerian Labour Attaché at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Switzerland, Essah Aniefiok Etim, calling for better welfare and support for seafarers.
The Director-General stated, “Policies are in the pipeline to improve the quality of training and certificates we give to the seafarers. We are taking steps to standardise the curriculum of our training institutions in line with international standards.
“We are also working on increasing the remuneration of our seafarers. These policies would be announced as soon as we complete work on them.”
He said seafarers were among the most courageous people in the world, stressing that the theme for this year’s Day of the Seafarer, “Seafarers are Key Workers,” is a “testament to the fact that the world cannot do without seafarers. Seafarers hold the key to humanity’s survival on a day-to-day basis.
“They hold the key to our wellbeing in this time of COVID-19 period.”
Jamoh praised seafarers for sustaining the global supply chain, distributing urgently needed medical supplies with enormous risk to their lives and families.
“The seafarers are unsung heroes, they are also our invisible heroes. We see their handwork everyday and everywhere in agricultural machinery, the food we eat, and the unbroken run of the manufacturing base, despite the global lockdown.”
The Director-General spoke on the challenges faced by seafarers amid the coronavirus pandemic, including stringent work conditions in some countries, movement restrictions, lockdowns, crew change difficulties, fatigue and seasickness, and disruption of contracts.
But he said, “As a regular, we have taken steps to alleviate the suffering of the seafarers. NIMASA was among the first government agencies to declare seafarers as being on essential duty, and we published this in a marine notice. We also issued COVID-19 guidelines to incoming ships towards ensuring that there is no importation of the virus by sea.
“NIMASA was the first in West Africa to issue a COVID-19 marine notice.
“We challenged ship-owners and employers of seafarers to take necessary proactive measures to lessen the pains of seafarers.
“We also walked in lockstep with the IMO to tailor all our marine notices in the early period of COVID-19 towards supporting the extension of the validity of seafarers’ certificates, crew change, guidelines, procedure and their designation as essential workers.”
Jamoh added, “It is said that a good sailor weathers the storm he cannot avoid; COVID-19 was a storm Seafarers couldn’t avoid. As tried and tested seamen and women, our seafarers have continued to weather this storm for us. We celebrate you today. Nigeria thanks you, the world appreciates you, NIMASA as a regulator will never abandon you. We will support you all the way.”
Karen, who is Director, Maritime Sector Consultant at Transbasin Limited, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, called on the international community to render necessary assistance to seafarers, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She commended NIMASA for supporting seafarers during the pandemic and emphasised the need for Nigeria to develop post-pandemic measures to make the country’s seafarers internationally marketable and competitive.
Karen said, “Seafarers are part of the global supply chain and should have access to shore leave at ports in accordance with global regulations. There is also a need to look at improved ways to mitigate the challenges that COVID-19 has brought before us, commencing with digitalisation of our processes, including local training and licensing of Nigerian seafarers.”
Etim, who is ILO Nigerian Labour Attaché, Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations in Switzerland, sued for better working conditions for seafarers. He called for greater opportunities to make their voices heard, saying they should be encouraged through appropriate rewards and compensations.
As part of the activities marking the day, NIMASA donated to the seafarers items that included essential commodities, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), facemasks, and hand sanitisers.
The Day of the Seafarer, marked June 25 every year worldwide, is a day set aside by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to celebrate seafarers and recognise their invaluable contribution to the global economy. This year’s virtual event, themed, “Seafarers are Keyworkers”, held via WebEx, specifically draws attention to the critical role and challenges of seafarers in the COVID 19 period.
Navy Rescues Crew From Burning Fishing Vessel
The Nigerian Navy Command says its gallant personnel rescued three Beninoise nationals from a burning fishing vessel that caught fire at the Lagos anchorage, recently.
Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Daji, made this known in a statement.
The FOC said the crew members were rescued by the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BINI after a distress call was sent out past midnight, on April 21.
According to him, on arrival at the scene, the fishing boat was completely engulfed by fire with one of the rescued crew members, Yoes Senovou, severely burnt in the incident.
He said the crew members who could not communicate in English were given first aid at the Naval Base where they were stabilized, while Senovou was taken to the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital, Ojo, for treatment.
“NNS BINI, while on routine patrol, responded to a distress call from a boat with call sign Sport Tail shortly after midnight on 21st April 2020 within the Lagos anchorage area.
“On arrival at the scene, a fishing boat was completely engulfed by fire. Three crew members, all Beninoise nationals, were rescued from the water and handed over to NNS Beecroft. They were given first aids at the Naval Base and stabilized.
“But one of the rescued crew members, Mr. Yoes Senovou, was badly burnt in the fire incident. He was promptly taken to the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital, Ojo, where he was treated.
“It was not immediately clear why they were fishing in Nigerian waters, if indeed they were truly fishing. Although none of the crew members could communicate in English, they gestured that they had machinery failure and drifted into Nigerian waters”, the FOC said in the statement.
Daji said efforts were ongoing to hand over the rescued persons to the Benin Republic Consulate in Lagos, if they are not implicated in any criminal activity.
Unpaid Allowances:Dock Workers Shut Operations At PTOL
Aggrieved members of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) on Wednesday shut down operational activities at Ports Terminal Operators Limited (PTOL) located at the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Port Harcourt Complex, over unpaid allowances.
The angry protesters also demanded for the removal of the Acting General Manager of the company, Mr. Mac Pherson, due to his alleged insensitivity to the plights of casual workers.
The protest which started at 8.am saw the gate of PTOL besieged by angry dockworkers who carried placards with bold inscriptions: “Pay us our allowances and we want the AGM removed”.
The protest forced the firm to shut down operations as over 100 dockworkers stormed the company’s premises, chanting labour slogans.
Our correspondent, who monitored the protest reports that the aggrieved workers forced their way into the company’s premises and disrupted its operations.
The angry workers blocked the main gate of the firm and prevented movement of persons and vehicular activities to and from the company.
There was, however, huge presence of armed policemen to prevent any breakdown of law and order.
Although the protesting workers declined to speak to the press, they insisted on the payment of their allowances and the removal of the company’s acting general manager.
Attempts to also speak with the management of the firm proved abortive as none was handy to comment on the development.
Stories by Chinedu Wosu
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