The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA has commenced talks on a new partnership with the South Shield Marine School at the South Tyneside College, South Shield, Newcastle in the United Kingdom, to provide sea time training opportunities for no fewer than 400 cadets trained under Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme NSDP, a capacity building initiative of the agency.

The college so far has over 502 Nigerian students being trained in various fields such as Marine Engineering and Nautical Science among several others.

Records also show that about 326 students in the college are due to undergo the mandatory 12-month sea time as prescribed by the International Maritime Organisation IMO, which is a mandatory requirement that they go on board an ocean going vessel for a period of one year or more lleading to the award of Certificate of Competence

Principal / Head of the school, Gary Hindmarch, who briefed the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, observed that the school is in partnership with reputable shipping agencies and organisations who are major global players to place cadets on board vessels across the globe, a scheme they have been using to provide sea time opportunities for their students over many decades of the existence of the institution.

It was gathered that the proposed partnership with the UK college would be similar to the sea time model already being provided by the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt, wherein the sea time is imbedded in the NSDP training programme.

While welcoming the partnership, Dr. Peterside noted that the new arrangement will not only provide the Nigerian youths the opportunity of completing their regular training as well as qualify them as globally employable seafarers with the Certificate of Competence.

He also noted that it will equally provide additional window for other NSDP cadets from other institutions, which will greatly reduce the number of the backlog of cadets needing sea time, a challenge currently facing the management of the agency.

While briefing the NIMASA management team further, Hindmarch noted that the sea time will provide the Nigerian youths the required opportunity to complete that aspect of their studies and leading to the completion of their final course works to enable them graduate fully and qualify to be seafarers.

According to him, the Nigerian students are brilliant students and that the “performance recorded each year show that the Nigerian students are the highest ethnic group with success at 84 to 95 per cent over the past five years and always above the college average, with a high number of female students at 16 per cent when compared to other foreign nationals.

The principal said: “The Nigerians cadets are good students, who are very committed to their studies, with great performance, which they have maintained for over five years since they have been at this institution. If there was to be a league table for the academic performance here, the Nigerian students would be top of the table for five years above other nationals studying in the Maritime School”.

Meanwhile, a representative of the students Nnabugwu Akobundu, who addressed the NIMASA delegation which include Mr. Dikko Bala, Nigeria’s Alternate Permanent Representative to the IMO and Barrister Victor Egejuru, coordinator of the NSDP, said that throughout these stages of the programme, NIMASA took full responsibility for their tuition and welfare.

“We are grateful to you and may we also request you to extend our appreciation and well wishes to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari. We join our compatriots to pray for him”, Nnabugwu said.

Another student Adeleye Femi, one of the students who spoke lauded the Federal Government and NIMASA management for their efforts.

He said: “The programme aims to equip us with the knowledge of the maritime industry, to bridge the gap of the dearth of maritime workers; we are also putting in our best to go in line with the aim of the agency. We hope the Agency will not relent in its efforts to fulfill the desired goal of the programme”.

The DG while lauding the students for their good performance, urged them to continue to be of good behaviour, adding that management is determined to help the students complete their studies in earnest, and that the sea time partnership with the institution will help achieve that.

Currently, about 2,500 Nigerian youths are beneficiaries of the NIMASA NSDP scheme.