I have lived most of my life on water- Engineer Ilori

I have lived most of my life on water- Engineer Ilori


Engr. Emmanuel Ilori is the Vice President of the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors, he doubles as the Chief Executive Officer of Ocean Pearls Limited.

Engr. Ilori who has been on the sea for most part of his life, has what it takes to be called veteran in seafaring profession. An astute marine Engineer, he has worked on vessels for several years. In this chat with maritimelifestyle, he narrates his scariest experience at sea as a marine engineer even as he effortlessly defends seafarers as not being womanizers but often misunderstood.

Did you know that Engr. Ilori loves white colour and does not have any preferred food type? Many more things you did not know about the engineer that you will find in this piece. Happy reading.


How do you relax?

We have been together for the past one and half hours talking maritime, I think that is enough to make me relax because if you are so passionate about your industry, it should keep you awake, agitate your brain and read more. So, I do read and I travel a lot so there is time for me to relax in-between flight or sometimes engage in some other activities and part of local community church. I do fine time to relax reading Bible.


How did you get into Maritime industry?

I had an uncle, one of the early practitioners in the Nigerian Maritime industry who had his company in Sapele, in the former Bendel state and I used to spend my holidays with him. When I went there, we would go to the ships and he enjoyed deploying me with his staff to go to the ship to go and work with them and I was fascinated with the seas with the fact that I was borne in a riverine area, Lekki which was water aide then. So, water has been part of my life so, it is not surprising that I ended up on the waterfront and I have not been anywhere else since I left school; I have been on the water. I can be described as a water man and I enjoy working at the sea. It is very fascinating that you meet many challenges every day. It is also very encouraging because for you to see nature at its best, I don’t see any other profession that allows you to see nature t its best. For you to take the ship out there and making sure the floating object moves, you don’t know the joy that is there unlike on the land when your vehicle breaks down, you call your mechanic to fix it but when your vessel is out there and it breaks down, you have to fix it there and make sure it gets home. I don’t think there is any joy better than that.

No matter who or what you are, on sea, all of us are like one family and we work together to put the ship at sea. It is actually a sweet experience and helps you to develop yourself and to develop the discipline necessary for you to earn means of life because there are times when you will be stretched to your limit but you know there is no stopping.


What’s your favourite colour?

You might want me to say blue but it’s not blue actually. Maybe white, I like white.


In the course of your sailing, has there been any occurrence that made you regret being a sailor?

No, there is no regret really. I have never regretted the profession. If anything, it has been of fulfilment. I worked with foreigners for the most part of my life. It is fulfilment for you to think you are black man working with white people and there have been one or two challenges like how dare you?


Have you had any turbulent sea experience before?

That’s part of the experience. I think the scariest experience was when we left UK going South and the weather turned really bad and I mean very bad and the signals we were getting left, right was ship sinking ahead of us, ship disappearing and we too developed an engine problem and as Chief Engineer, I think I was sleeping when I realised that things were turning bad and by time I got to the control room, I went to see the captain just to let him know that I was taking over the ship engineering; and we had some of the engineers who were ill and we got to a stage, the engine stopped, everything stopped, people thought that we were going to go down but we did not. That is the joy of being a marine engineer if you know what you are doing. We stayed with it, we used our emergency power and after a few hours, we restored power and we went back to communication that we have fixed it and we all clapped for ourselves and went ahead. Yes, it can have its challenges but I think the joy is that we were able to overcome the challenge.


As at the time the vessel broke down, what was going through your mind at that time?

There was nothing going through our minds, we just stayed focused. The important thing is for you to know what you have to do and also taking your time to work through it. It stretched some of us, some were weak and we had to let those who were weak to go and rest and those who are strong enough stayed with it. The fact that I was Chief Engineer, I could still get my hands dirty.


Do you have a favourite Good? 

I don’t have a favourite food to be quite honest because I have travelled so much, you must be adaptable, you cannot afford to be selective if you travel so much. Occasionally, you can get something close to African food but you must be able to adapt when you are on the dinner table and you realised that you haven’t had your pepper or something for a while.


There is a popular belief that seafarers have attachment to women and flings anywhere they travel to. Did you have same attachment to women?

It is okay for people to think that these guys have been away for so long and that the first woman they see, they would pounce. No, it doesn’t work that way. I don’t think women will be of priority for a proper seafarer in as much as the profession puts pressure and that was part of what went on when I was in seafarers’ welfare. It puts pressure on relationships, on family lives. Your spouse, your children have not seen you and then you could not communicate with them. It does put pressure on relationships, you can imagine what people will think. Seafarers have lost their wives because they have been away for too long, children may not easily recognise them. I remember my first son one day when I came back, he looked up and said he had not seen this face before and that was when I began to think that it was time for me to come ashore.

It puts pressure on family life but in terms of womanizing, I don’t think a seafarer is different from any other person.


In the next five years, where would you want to see the Nigerian Maritime industry? 

In the next five years, I want to see the Nigerian Maritime industry talents proper positioned within the Nigerian socio-economic structure to be able to contribute effectively; to be a booming maritime nation because we don’t have a reason not to be a booming maritime nation because the like of Dubai port should be child’s play compared to what Nigeria can gain. We need to work hard and put all hands on deck; we want to see professionalisation of the Nigerian Maritime industry because if we have professionalisation within the industry, it will take its rightful position.

I want us to be in the Category B of the IMO Council. If there is anything I want to see, I want to see that happen. It is achievable but we need to work hard and put our best foot forward.

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