The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has pledged to be involved in the renovation of the Mission To Seafarers (MTS) centre to ensure visiting seafarers have a befitting place.
Mohammed Bello-Koko, the NPA Managing Director, said this after inspecting the MTS centre to ascertain its depth of decay on Friday in Lagos.
Bello-Koko promised that the NPA would revamp the centre with the necessary ambience and condusive environment.
He added that seafarers and sailors that come into Nigeria would be treated the same way with their counterparts in other parts of the world.
Bello-Koko said that this would help to increase the rating of Nigeria’s ports, adding that they have gone round and have seen the dilapidated nature of the place and this is not what I had expected to see and it is a very sad one.
“What you have seen today is where you expect sailors and seafarers coming in from outside the country to stay, relax and spend some good time, but this is what we have as a nation.
“Seafarers shouldn’t come to Nigeria after spending 30 or 90 days in a vessel and are forced to stay in a vessel for another two or three weeks just because there isn’t the necessary required environment.
“You are going to see activities here very soon. The NPA will give all the necessary support to the mission,” he said.
Bello-Koko that the mission to seafarers was a recognised body worldwide set up in the 1800s and the essence of the mission was to take actions relevant and necessary to the welfare of seafarers and their mental wellbeing.
“They have been doing quite well and a good job but in recent times, things changed and we have had discussions with the mission and we felt there is a need for NPA to get involved in renovation of this place.
“In every country, it is the maritime community that should have interest in the development of this kind of facility. In Nigeria, everything practically revolves around the port authority and probably a few stakeholders,” he said.
Bello-Koko said that as regard seafarers’ welfare, NPA was coordinating with not just the association but with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other stakeholders in the industry.
On the relevance of seafarers in the supply value chain, Bello-Koko said that without seafarers there would be no shipping and supply which means there would be a break.
“Seafarers are responsible for the movement of cargo, they spend three months in the sea from one location to the other, so that means they are integral part of the supply chain in the maritime industry, therefore, their welfare should be paramount.
“The mission is responsible for this and we appreciate them for this. This is what is in every country that has maritime activities and seaport in the world.
“This used to be one of the best in the world and we can see the current state of it, so we thank the mission chairman for bringing this up for us to look at it,” he said.
Responding, Adebayo Sarumi, Chairman, Mission To Seafarers, said that the depth of decay in the centre did not speak well of Nigeria which made the mission to appeal for the NPA’s intervention.
Sarumi, who is also a former Managing Director, NPA said, “I am indeed very grateful to Bello-Koko that he has not changed that perception. I believe that in a few years’ time, we will have a place that will be on the map of the world as one of the most welcoming arena for visiting seafarers.
“They will have somewhere they can meet other people, recreate themselves and have a bit of even spiritual renewal,” Sarumi said.
He said that the seafarers when on duty were being tempted to do things because they were far away from their families with some committing suicide.
“This is a place where they will have opportunity to get in touch with their families, by the time we set up the communication gargets, it will allow them to directly speak with their families back at home.
“By the time they go back into their vessels, they are not only renewed, they are energised even to continue the work,” he said.
Sarumi urged the ship managers to take care of the seafarers stressing that it was not the job of the NPA to take care of them.
He expressed dissatisfaction that seafarers all over the world were treated as sub-human, an impression the mission would change.
Sarumi the mission was impressed with the leadership of Bello-Koko and encouraged him to continue the good work.
“In the past, we were looking for people to deliver and interpret the port reform for the future. But now the NPA is interpreting it and even surpassing our vision of what a modern port should look like.
“A port that should be connected internationally and people will be happy doing business in, this management is doing it under Bello-Koko,” he declared.