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Nigeria: Local shipping firms scuttle seamen’s wage increase

Local shipping firms scuttle seamen’s wage increase
Bayo Akomolafe July 5, 2018

Procedure that would enhance salaries of the Nigerian seafarers has been tactically stalled by the indigenous shipping companies.

It was gathered that the local ship owners, who have been complaining of lack of business and huge bank debts have avoided the signing of the newly-approved Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which concerns remuneration and welfare of seamen on-board ships.

The last time the wages were reviewed was 2011, but it was learnt that series of meetings had been held to review the wages to no avail.

Currently, Nigerian seamen’s remuneration structure is 46.2 per cent less than their counterparts working for foreign ships.

New Telegraph gathered that while a Nigerian captain earns between N500,000 and N700,000, his counterpart receives N1.31 million ($3,633) per month.

Chief engineer on board indigenous vessels earn between N500,000 and 650,000, while his mate earns N1.18 million ($3,302) monthly.

Also, while foreign cook and steward take home the International Labour Oganisation’s statutory consolidated minimum wage of $1,028, seafarers take home between N433,800 ($1,205) and N370,080 ($1, 028), while their local counterparts earn between N120,000 and N140,000 .

However, trouble started last week when the shipowners refused to seat with the apex maritime regulator, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) to address the issue of wage increase under CBA.

Defending the ship owners, President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Greg Ogbeifun, said that the association was not opportune to attend the meeting that would lead to the signing of the CBA document with NIMASA and the union.

He explained that the association was excited about the document, but that he had no time to be in the meeting with the stakeholders.

Also, Ogbeifun noted that most ship owners were unable to meet their obligations to the financing banks, leading to loss of jobs and failed businesses.

The president said that what was needed to grow the Nigerian shipping industry and the economy was the government support on Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF), which would enable them to lift Nigerian crude and ultimately boost indigenous capacity.

Ogbeifun added that foreign vessels banned in Europe were in fact leading and dictating the tune in the distribution of imported petroleum products in the country’s waters.

However, Merchant Navy Senior Staff Association (MNSSA) has accused the ship-owners of foot-dragging and stalling the signing process of the document.

The General Secretary of the association, Comrade Julius Efforkpo, complained that what they earned was very low compared to what their counterparts operating in the same waters receive.

According to him, a seafarer on the captain cadre, earns between N500,000 and N750,000.

Recently, the ILO consolidated minimum wage of $1,028 for seafarers was approved by the ILO’s Joint Maritime Commission Sub-committtee on Wages of Seafarers.

It would be recalled that in 2017, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and maritime employers comprising the Joint Negotiating Group (JNG) had already agreed to raise seafarers’ wages by 16 per cent by January, 2019.

Consequently, ILO has said: “Companies who are direct employers or which use seafarers recruitment and placement services shall ensure, as far as practicable, that the standards laid down in the MLC are met including the requirement that no fees or visa costs are borne directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, by the seafarers for finding employment.”