The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA Hadiza Bala Usman has raised serious concerns over the recent report by the International Maritime Organisation IMO, which shows that women constitute less than two per cent of global maritime labour force, saying that such report was disheartening.

The report also indicates that the two per cent are found more in the service segment of shipping rather than the core shipping areas.

The Managing Director who spoke at the 2019 edition of the Seafarer’s Day celebration with the theme: ‘On Board With Gender Equality’, hosted by NIMASA in Lagos, regretted that although gender imbalance remains a global problem in the labour market, “the worst example of this phenomenon exists in the maritime community where records from the IMO indicates that a disheartening two per cent of the workforce are women”. 

Represented by the Executive Director, Marine and Operations of the authority, Dr. Sekonte Davis, the MD also acknowledged the fact that the problem is not limited to Africa alone but also global due to traditional and religious practices which exclude women from certain career opportunities.

“We should go past these sentiments and give our citizens irrespective of gender the best opportunities that life offers them”, the NPA-boss said.  She therefore encouraged young girls to take interest in science; technology subjects to enable them pursue career in shipping marine and operations, among others.

She however lauded the current management team of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA for taking up the campaign to encourage the female folk in Nigeria to take interest in shipping, maritime and allied fields of business.

It was gathered that as part of efforts to encourage more female participation in the shipping industry, the present management of NPA now grants women maternity leave of 16 weeks as against 12 weeks while nursing mothers are also allowed to report to duty one hour after official resumption time and close one hour before closing.

NPA had also commissioned a crèche facility for nursing mothers, as the MD believes that: “We must constantly remind ourselves that women matter and that when we build women, we build humanity”.

Meanwhile, wife of the Vice President, Mrs. Dolapo Osinbajo who represented Her Excellency the First Lady, Dr. Aisha Buhari, while speaking at the event, pointed out that she was delighted to be part of thisyear’s event because of the fact that this year’s theme is centered on gender equality and the empowerment of women in the maritime industry.

She said: “The 2019 Day of Seafarers provides an opportunity for government, ship-owners and other maritime stakeholders to encourage the participation of women in the maritime industry. Furthermore, government agencies most especially those in the maritime industry must ensure the achievement of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal SGD”.

Earlier at the event the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Peterside Dakuku told the guests from various organisations, special guest of honor and executives of various unions who were present that the agency was committed to ensuring gender equality in the country, insisting that women are of paramount importance to the maritime industry.

The DG said the agency will continue to pursue policies and programmes on gender equality and empowerment of women in the maritime industry, pointing out that the agency will put in place sustainable policies that will guarantee equal and fair employment opportunities for both male and female seafarers.

Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigerian Shippers Council, Barrister Hassan Bello, in his own contributions, stated that gender equality provides employment opportunities and also contributes to the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product GDP.

He pointed out that it is important to create an enabling environment for women to thrive in seafaring profession, guarantying adequate information, pay equality, and the prohibition of sexual harassment and other forms of gender prejudices.