By Godfrey Bivbere
THE National Seafarers Welfare Board, NSWB, Nigeria, has said that seafarers who have their stay on board ships extended as a result of the Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic would receive wages due them for the extra days.
Chairman of NSWB, Otunba Kunle Folarin, stated this while responding to the fears of some Nigerian seafarers on Maritime Television’s premium show tagged Live Conversations.
Folarin expressed the readiness of the Board to provide assistance to Nigerian seafarers facing difficulties at this time, stressing further that seafarers who toil to keep the economic balance deserve to be paid.
The NSWB chairman asked seafarers to report all attempts by their employers to short-change them or any other ill treatment on them to the Board, noting that such matters will be addressed decisively.
He explained that seafarers have a right to escalate such issues even to the International Labour Organisation, ILO, when they are not handled properly.
The NSWB chairman who also referred to seafarers as “the engine that propel international trade” said they deserve support through a collective bargaining agreement arguing that, “Nigerian seafarers should receive remuneration comparable with their counterparts all over the world.”
He disclosed that a tripartite agreement on seafarers’ welfare in which government represented by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN representing seafarers and shipowners was reached in 2019 and signed by the parties.
Folarin noted that the travel ban that has weighed on crew changes through the shutting of airports and land borders, have adversely affected the repatriation of seafarers. He said shore passes are no longer issued by the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS so as to protect seafarers from contracting COVID-19 by coming ashore.
He assured seafarers that in extreme matters like health crises, and upon the recommendation of the Port Health, evacuation of persons with a delicate case can be arranged.
It will be recalled that the ILO recently in a white paper called on governments to treat seafarers respectfully and to allow crew changes and travels for seafarers.
Folarin also thanked organisations like Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association, WISTA Nigeria and Women in Logistics and Transport, WILAT for supporting seafarers during the pandemic.