Headlines Oyetola tasks heads of maritime agencies on smart initiatives, commissions MTS centre By maritimemag October 26, 2023 ShareTweet 0 By Abiodun OBA The Honourable Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Gboyega Oyetola, has charged heads of maritime agencies to be more audacious and innovative in spearheading smart initiatives in the sector. The Honourable Minister threw the challenge on Wednesday while commissioning the newly rebuilt Mission To Seafarers (MTS) Centre located in Apapa, Lagos. Oyetola reaffirmed the renewed commitment and result-oriented approach of the Ministry, and assured of his unflinching support for the implementation of such initiatives which as he said would deepen Nigeria’s port competitiveness. The Minister commended the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority for its visionary intervention in transforming the facility, which was in poor condition at the beginning of the year. Oyetola said, “I was highly elated when I received the report of the commissioning of this Seafarers’ Centre by the Nigerian Ports Authority. “My joy is rooted in the realisation that this purpose-built facility, designed to provide vital social, psychological, and emotional support to the crewmen and women who drive global trade in and out of Nigeria, signposts the seriousness of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration in enhancing the maritime sector to add greater value to the national economy. “Improving Nigeria’s balance of trade, which is crucial to strengthening the value of the naira and creating employment, is at the top of Mr President’s policy agenda. “Given the pivotal role that the maritime sector plays in actualizing this noble objective, the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, under my leadership, is determined to equip seafarers and all maritime workers with the enabling tools to tackle and overcome work-related challenges. This is part of our concerted effort to ensure the maximisation of the comparative advantages that our maritime resources present. “I therefore regard today’s commissioning of this facility as timely and very much in tandem with the economic goals of this government. “I must commend the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority for their visionary intervention in transforming this facility, which I was told was in poor condition at the beginning of this year, into the regional best-in-class that it is today. “Let me seize this moment to reaffirm the renewed commitment and result-oriented approach of the Ministry, and I want to challenge all heads of maritime agencies to be more audacious and innovative in spearheading smart initiatives like this, which creates opportunities and opens up new vistas of growth. You can rest assured of my unflinching support for the implementation of such initiatives. “Before I conclude, let me remind all stakeholders that the sustainability of investments such as this rests heavily on how well we maintain them. I hope that the importance of this facility will not be lost on its users.” Also speaking during the commissioning programme, the Managing Director of the NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, explained that it makes sense to ensure that seafarers who drive global trade have a well-furnished and equipped space such as this to unwind and regain psychosocial balance anytime they come to Nigeria. “With over 90 percent of global trade, which accounts for half of the world’s economic output, constituting an important economic driver that helps to spur development and reduce poverty going by sea, every member of the maritime community and indeed the global community is directly or indirectly a beneficiary of the service of seafarers. “So it makes sense to reserve well-furnished and equipped spaces such as this all over the world for seafarers to unwind and regain psychosocial balance. “The decision to urgently reconstruct and fully equip this facility to acceptable global standards derives from our persuasion at the Nigerian Ports Authority that shore leave for seafarers, which this facility affords, is a necessity and not a luxury. “It is essential for this special category of men and women who spend weeks on end holed up with only workmates for the company to get on shore to interact and access the internet to contact family, seek welfare, secure medical or psychological support if needed, and have a break from the work environment. “The partnership with the Mission to Seafarers and consequent development of this Seafarers Centre is a testament to our relentless commitment to advancing the fortunes of maritime trade and unleashing fresh opportunities for growth and prosperity inherent in Nigeria’s blue economy. “With an estimated number of four thousand (4000) foreign-flagged ships visiting our shores annually, which implies three hundred (300) vessels (or a minimum of 6,000 seafarers) every month, it has become expedient that we intensify our collaborations with global institutions like the MTS to encourage shore leave and crew change and, of course, reap the concomitant benefits for coastal tourism and the projection of a positive image and reputation for our dear nation. “Already, we are witnessing improvements in inland traffic to and from our ports. These, coupled with developments in intermodal transportation, as occasioned by our advancing rail system, are bound to encourage and stimulate immense opportunities in the maritime ecosystem. “It would be pertinent to mention that the combination of being a coastal nation and a sub-regional economic powerhouse, as well as being the continent’s most populous nation with a youth population of about 60 percent, compels us to take advantage of every opportunity to deepen our port competitiveness and rating to attract necessary opportunities to cater to this growing demography,” the NPA MD stated. © 2023, maritimemag. All rights reserved.