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Department of Petroleum Resources is Exploiting Nigerian Seafarers

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The long existing cold war between offshore vessels operators and merchant tanker operators in the maritime, oil and gas sectors is expectedly rearing its head in the Nigeria  Shipowners Association (NISA) elections and could be a deciding factor in the emergence of the next president of the association.

This is coming as an interest group led by an influential member of NISA is working to ensure that the election does not take place at all, even as the Association’s Electoral Committee (ASSECO) has post-poned the general elections to 24th, October 2014. It was originally scheduled for 15th October, 2014.

There has been a mistrust between the two groups of business interests, to the extent that some offshore operators are bent on not seeing a tanker operator become the next  president of NISA.

Chief Isaac Jolapamo, the incumbent president and Capt. Dada Niyi Labinjo a presidential aspirant in the forthcoming election, are tanker operators, while Engr. Greg Ogbeifun is an offshore operator but Barr. Temi Omatseye is both an offshore and tanker operator. Even Mr. Paul Jegede who has backed down on his NISA presidential aspiration is an offshore gladiator.

The cause of this cold war could not be established as at press time but investigations show that it is a factor that must not be shoved aside in the forthcoming NISA election.

Our source further averted that this perceived animosity is one of the key reasons major offshore players do not participate in the Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) believed to be tanker operators dominated, even in programme content.

Meanwhile, an influential member of NISA has been working tirelessly to ensure that the election does take place, all because of the latitude of the operation the present  leadership of NISA provides for him and his cohorts, irrespective of the 12 years life span of the current executive.

However, this may be connected with the post-ponement of election as explained by the ASSECO, which stated that the shift in date was to increase participation of members .

Confirming this, Capt. Labinjo said it was a decision of the ASSECO to which every contestant must abide with; grieving that NISA members  highly busy individual must have cancelled several appointment, in order to keep the earlier date, open to ensure they cast their vote.

“I know that most of our members  have shifted their appointment to enable them participate in the voting exercise as earlier stated for Wednesday 15, October 2014. And that is why I have thought it wise as a matter of urgency to inform you all of the postponement. I regret any inconvenience the shift in the date may cause”, he indicated, adding, “I hope to see you all on the 24th, October 2014 to cast your votes for me as the next  NISA president.”

In another development, NISA is bent on engaging the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) in a battle over the prevailing collection of Offshore Safety Permit (OSP) known as crew passport fee.

NISA has described this as extortion of the highest order and a practice alien to shipping operations, globally.

Capt. Labinjo told MMS Plus Weekly, last week, that the collection of US$620 per seafarer, before registering crew to work aboard vessels to pick petroleum products was exploitative.

Labinjo also painfully noted that the DPR would not issue or renew any DPR licence, until it has collected its levy, in respect of OSP charges.

“This is extortion. It is pure extortion!”, he indicated, pointing out that a system that milks anyone of $620 per seafarer; and $6200 (over N1 million) per a crew of 10 seafarers, is nothing short of sheer exploitation.

“The DPR has nothing to do with seafarers on board a ship. Its business begins with the oil and gas; and ends with the vessel; so why raise levy on the crew?” he posited, explaining that such collections had directly impacted negatively on the competitiveness of the Nigerian business terrain, despite the efforts of the Federal Government, to the contrary.

He wondered how an OSP would cost $620 (about N105,000), when a Nigerian international passport does not cost up to N15,000; and lamented that the DPR had cashed in on the gentle nature of the NISA vision, to perpetuate the extortion.

“The DPR is helping to increase the running cost of business in the country. It is making the field uncompetitive. It is extortion. It is pure extortion. Ironically, the DPR has no business with the constitution of the crew”, he stated further, noting that the NISA has the capacity to end the exploitation.

Speaking on his modus operandi, Labinjo who said his ultimate aim is to “bring back our jobs” would be to harness the professional expertise and commitment of the maritime lawyers with the persevering spirit and skills of the ship-owners to frontally engage the DPR, remaining unbending, unrelenting and unwavering until the extortion was ended.

“NISA has the capacity. We have the competence. We must find a legitimate way to stop this extortion. And it may be the one of the steps we must take, as we take decisions to ensure our survival!”, he concluded.

MMS

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