Sea Time: A Thing of the Past?
The dynamics of life and technological advancements achieved through researches invested in by future looking, ambitious, development inclined institutions and individuals, are working with even greater commitment at having ships with very few or no crew trading in the world’s oceans very soon.
The Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks –MUNIN is a project by the European Union, EU, in collaboration with universities and institutions like Rolls-Royce and other multinational corporations in seeking solutions to the shortage seafarers globally, for which Nigeria’s response is the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme, NSDP, championed and anchored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.
Over 2, 500 cadets have been trained under NSDP at a cost that remains unknown even to staffs of NIMASA. Years after their graduation, sea time paid for by NIMASA remains impossible because the foreign universities that promised the requisite sea time either lack the ships or it was a scam.
Shall we talk of employment when sea time hurdle has not been resolved? Shall we talk about Cadets of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron? That’s a story for another day.
Project MUNIN has been on for over five years. The progress made is astonishing. While we are busy talking about Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF, that Director Generals of NIMASA remain uncertain of, while we debate the merits/demerits of a national carrier, the world moves on with ship after ship being built, ordered and paid for by persons who know better- bringing goods to Nigeria day after day for which we pay, pay and repay. What is our response in over two decades….NSDP?
Maritime Unmanned Navigation through Intelligence in Networks is hinged on three vital areas of shipping to which many African countries care very little or nothing about:
Economic Sustainability: Cutting cost and carrying more cargo is the vison of MUNIN. The salaries/wages and consumables by crew on board vessels is what MUNIN is set to drastically reduce if not eliminate. Cabins will become space for cargo. With manning costs put at 40 % of the total ship operation costs and about 15% of the average trip rates, the reduction in running cost is huge. Is someone is still talking about sea time? For who, where and to what end?
Ecological Sustainability: Maritime experts agree that a reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with maritime transport is an important objective in order to make maritime transport more environment-friendly in the future. Slow steaming is maybe the most obvious approach to achieve this objective. By diminishing the fuel consumption of a vessel, its emissions are reduced equally. Hence the effects of unmanned autonomous vessels on a wider deployment of slow steaming will not only contribute towards economic viability but also significantly towards the ecological sustainability of maritime transport. This is a key objective and is expected to be an outcome of the MUNIN project.
Social Integration: Findings indicate that mariners are confronted with a disconnection from their social environment due to the long time periods they spend nigeraway from family and friends. As a result, especially in Europe, a shortage of nautical officers is already perceived by the industry. The concept of unmanned autonomous vessels thus offers an opportunity for improvement by increasing the attractiveness of seafaring jobs by transferring nautical and technical jobs from the ship to shore. Here the seafarers of the future control and monitor the routing and navigation of the unmanned ship from a shore side operations center, plan the vessel’s maintenance schedule or could even pilot the ship during the approach of a port.
Is the world not moving away from sea time? If the owners of the ships are moving in this directing, what are we doing training cadets for vessels we do not have?
Very soon the EU will call for re-certification. The International Maritime Organization, IMO will endorse and we shall have NSDP 2?
There is need to plan for our future and needs instead of waiting for others to plan and dictate to us. This is the bane of our under development.