The Chairman of the board, Dr Kunle Folarin, expressed this worry over the continued detention of seafarers by the Nigerian Navy on Tuesday in Lagos while fielding questions from journalists during a one-day conference on ‘Local Content Development in Shipping, Oil and Gas Industry’.
Our correspondent gathered that over 200 seafarers working in vessels coming into Nigeria have been detained when their vessels were held for one infringement or the other.
Folarin described the treatment as unfair, saying that the situation amounted to criminalization of seafarers, and punishing the seafarers who were mere employees for the sins of the shipowners, the employers.
He insisted that due process was not usually followed with the arrests and detention.
He said that majority of the detained seafarers were citizens of developing countries who were vulnerable, willing to do odd jobs and had no one to plead on their behalf.
Among them were Indians, Filipinos and Puerto Ricans adding that while the Indians and Filipinos had their embassies negotiating their release, others had no one to negotiate on their behalf.
He however said that the National Seafarers Organisation had collaborated with some non-governmental organisations to secure the release of five of the seafarers.
He said that other seafarers were still being detained because the ship they were working with was arrested for engaging in illegal crude oil lifting.
He said, “It is always the oil and gas sector and this raises the question of how vulnerable seafarers working in this sector are.
“The shipowner is not known because most of these ships are chartered. The person who chartered the ship is of course a Nigerian but the moment there is an issue involving arrest, the person will turn to ghost, disappear and leave the crew to face the music.
“Some of the seafarers are abandoned by the ship agents in a hotel until the hotel management gets tired and throws them out on the street. We have tried to see how we can help but if one does not have access to these seafarers, one cannot help them.”
In March, two Nigerian-flagged tanker vessels, MT United Trader and MT United Venture, (owned by a Chinese firm) were detained with the crew on board.
Captain of MV United Trader, Hassan Adeola, was said to have disclosed that the vessel was being detained by the order of a court because the owner defaulted in the payment of N40m bunker (fuel) supplied to the vessel by his clients.