Challenges Facing Nigerian Sailors in the Global Maritime Landscape

Mon Feb 12 2024

The global maritime workforce, according to the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), comprises 1,892,720 sailors, merely 0.023659% of the world's population.

In a recent interview, Dakuku Peterside, the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), disclosed the presence of 6039 registered Nigerian seafarers. This figure is less than 0.1% of Nigeria's population exceeding 200 million. When computed further, Nigeria's contribution to seafarers amounts to less than 0.5%, primarily involved in local operations rather than internationally.

Despite Nigeria's expansive population and advantageous location with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, its impact on the global maritime industry remains notably poor. Nigerian seafarers struggle to be recognized on the international stage.

This raises the crucial question: why are Nigerian sailors unable to compete effectively in the global maritime industry? Through extensive research and inquiry, I have uncovered some of the challenges facing Nigerian sailors.

  • Lack of Scholarships

The absence of adequate scholarship opportunities for sailors pursuing marine qualifications stands as a pivotal challenge within the maritime industry. Sea-faring professionals encounter numerous hurdles in their quest for educational advancement. Despite the demanding nature of their profession, financial constraints often restrict their ability to access quality education and training, hindering career progression. Marine qualifications, essential for career growth and ensuring safety at sea, demand rigorous and specialized education. However, the cost of acquiring these certifications, coupled with limited scholarship options, presents a significant barrier. The financial burden imposed on aspiring sailors can be prohibitive, deterring many from pursuing or advancing in their chosen field. This absence of scholarships not only impacts individuals but also has broader implications for the maritime industry. It restricts the pool of skilled and qualified seafarers, potentially compromising safety standards and the efficiency of maritime operations. Efforts to address this challenge must prioritize the provision of financial aid, grants, and scholarships tailored to the unique needs of those pursuing marine qualifications. Creating more accessible educational pathways can enhance the industry's talent pool, ensuring a competent and capable workforce for the future.

Cadetships Placement


The shortage of cadetship placements for aspiring seafarers in Nigeria poses a significant challenge within the maritime industry. Cadetship programs are crucial for providing hands-on training and experience to maritime cadets, allowing them to apply theoretical knowledge in practical, real-world situations aboard vessels. However, the insufficient availability of these placements limits the development and practical exposure of future seafaring professionals.

I encountered cadets sponsored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to pursue Maritime certificates in Nautical Science and Marine Engineering in the United Kingdom, India, and the Philippines. Some completed their two-year programs as far back as 2017 and have been seeking placement ever since. It was only in 2021 that some of them were finally called for cadetship placements.

The scarcity of cadetship opportunities in Nigeria hampers the growth and proficiency of aspiring seafarers, impacting their ability to gain the necessary skills and experience vital for a successful maritime career. This shortage not only affects individual cadets but also has broader implications for the maritime sector as a whole, as it leads to a potential shortage of skilled and competent seafarers in the future.

Addressing this challenge requires a collaborative effort among industry stakeholders, educational institutions, and government bodies. Establishing partnerships with maritime companies to create more cadetship positions, enhancing funding and support for cadet training programs, and promoting the value of these practical training opportunities are essential steps in alleviating the scarcity of placements.

Additionally, encouraging international collaborations and exchange programs can broaden the horizons for Nigerian cadets, providing them with opportunities to gain experience on vessels outside the country. This exposure not only enriches their training but also helps in aligning their skills with international standards, enhancing their global employability.

Efforts to expand cadetship opportunities are pivotal in ensuring the development of a skilled and competent workforce within the Nigerian maritime industry, fostering a new generation of seafarers equipped with the practical expertise needed to navigate the challenges of the maritime profession.

  • Lack of Internationally Recognized Marine Schools Aside from the Nigerian Maritime Academy in Oron, Nigeria, which is a maritime university issuing Certificates of Competence (COC), the COCs issued here lack competitiveness in the global maritime market. As a result, most seafarers working on foreign vessels must acquire a foreign COC before they can be employed by international marine companies.The absence of internationally recognized marine schools in Nigeria presents a significant setback for Nigerian sailors aspiring to compete in the global maritime market. Education and certification play a crucial role in the competence and employability of seafarers. However, the lack of institutions in Nigeria issuing certificates accepted and respected on an international level restricts the opportunities for Nigerian sailors to gain recognition and competitiveness in the global maritime industry.

International acceptance of certifications is vital for seafarers aiming to work on vessels that traverse international waters. Without certifications from globally recognized institutions, Nigerian sailors face challenges when seeking employment or career progression in the broader maritime market.

This setback not only affects individual sailors but also impacts the reputation and competitiveness of Nigerian maritime education and training programs on a global scale. It creates barriers for Nigerian seafarers to participate in international maritime operations, limiting their access to various job opportunities and advancement in their careers.

To address this challenge, it's essential to focus on enhancing the quality and recognition of maritime education within Nigeria. This can be achieved through collaborations with internationally acclaimed maritime institutions, standardizing curriculum to meet global benchmarks, and seeking accreditation from reputable international maritime bodies.

By ensuring that certifications issued by Nigerian marine schools meet international standards and are recognized globally, Nigerian sailors can compete on a level playing field in the international maritime market. This not only benefits individual sailors but also contributes to the growth and competitiveness of the Nigerian maritime industry as a whole.

  • Lack of Indigenous-Owned Nigerian Vessels

The absence of indigenous-owned Nigerian maritime companies poses a significant challenge for both Nigerian sailors and the maritime industry as a whole. A robust network of local maritime companies is pivotal for fostering opportunities, career growth, and a thriving maritime sector. However, the scarcity of such enterprises restricts the options available to Nigerian sailors and affects the overall development of the country's maritime industry.

Following the sale of the 21 vessels owned by the Nigerian National Shipping Line in 1995, there has been a noticeable absence of indigenous-owned marine companies employing Nigerian sailors. However, in recent times, the Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Limited (NLNG) has emerged as a noteworthy exception. NLNG owns 23 vessels, with NLNG Ship Management Limited overseeing eleven of these vessels.

The lack of indigenous maritime companies diminishes the availability of job opportunities and career prospects for Nigerian sailors. These companies often offer a range of positions, from entry-level roles to advanced managerial positions, allowing seafarers to develop their careers within their home country. Without such opportunities, Nigerian sailors may face limitations in their professional growth and access to diverse roles and experiences within their own maritime sector.

Moreover, the absence of indigenous maritime companies impacts the development of a sustainable and competitive maritime industry within Nigeria. Local companies are often better positioned to understand and address the specific needs, challenges, and opportunities within the country's maritime landscape. They can contribute significantly to the economy, infrastructure, and expertise development in the maritime sector.

To overcome this challenge, it's crucial to encourage the growth and establishment of indigenous-owned maritime enterprises within Nigeria. This could involve government support, incentives for local entrepreneurs, and policies that promote the growth of these businesses. Collaboration between government bodies, industry stakeholders, and aspiring entrepreneurs can facilitate the creation and expansion of Nigerian-owned maritime companies, providing opportunities for local sailors and enhancing the overall competitiveness and growth of the maritime industry in Nigeria.

If these pressing challenges are effectively addressed by the government and relevant stakeholders, the Nigerian maritime industry could undoubtedly surge towards a prominent position within the global maritime landscape and workforce.

By focusing on initiatives such as providing scholarships tailored for marine qualifications, enhancing cadetship opportunities, and establishing internationally recognized marine schools within Nigeria, the government can significantly elevate the quality of maritime education and training. This would not only empower Nigerian sailors with the requisite skills and certifications but also enhance their global employability and competitiveness.

Additionally, supporting the growth of indigenous-owned Nigerian vessels and maritime companies through incentives and policies would foster a robust local maritime sector. This, in turn, would generate more job opportunities, encourage career growth, and contribute to the overall development and sustainability of the maritime industry within Nigeria.

By addressing these challenges comprehensively, the government can pave the way for a skilled, competent, and internationally competitive maritime workforce. This proactive approach will position Nigeria as a significant player in the global maritime arena, fostering growth, innovation, and prominence within the industry.

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