Philippine seafarers on board vessels which call at the Nigerian seaports have issued notice to the Nigerian authorities to pay more as ‘hazard charges’, saying that could only compensate for their ‘risky voyage’ to the country.
The demand is sequel to an earlier classification of Nigerian ports and waters as “high risk destination” by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), following reported increase in the rate of piracy attacks at the Gulf of Guinea.
Seafarers of Philippines origin, who are said to account for over ten percent of world seafarers, similarly dominate the manning of most vessels which call at the Nigerian waters.
Following the development, experts have warned that Nigerian economy would be adversely affected as such extra charges would ultimately be passed over to the prices of imported goods, thereby worsening the already worrisome cost of living in the country.
Pioneer President of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Mike Igbokwe, in a reaction monitored through the Nigerian maritime news portal, said the decision of the POEA was premised on increased pirate attacks on vessels plying Nigerian waters.
According to the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), “The Gulf of Guinea is now a high risk area and because we are close to it, our waters too have been categorized as high risk area -inland waterways, the Niger Delta and beyond.
“They are talking of 12 nautical miles from the water…this represents our territorial waters so what they are saying is that our waters are unsafe and they blame it on piracy.
“They have now come to recognize our waters as pirates infested and risky to their citizens because they are seafarers. They recognize that they are plying those risky routes, and want compensation for them if there is death or accidents and in terms of wages.
Igbokwe who said the development underscores the need to pay more attention to checking attacks at the region said the Philippine authorities may have similarly discovered that some of their seafarers have started refusing to go to those areas categorized as high risk.
“So, they are now trying to give them more wages to encourage them. Just like those days, Baghdad, during the Iraqi war was high risk area but some people did not mind going there because they got more money.”
To this end, Igbokwe called on government to urgently step up its safety measures particularly at the dreaded Gulf of guinea, as well as other allied maritime environments before other countries toe the line of Philippines, thereby further putting the nation’s economy at great risk.
“The freights or hires will go higher and bring imported inflation into the Nigerian economy. The reason why it will go high is that the owner of the ship on which the crew are or who employed them or the demise charterer will end up paying more to them in terms of wages.
He pointed out that when this happens, the situation will ultimately put the extra cost on the freight or hires to be paid by the cargo owner or cargo interest.“So, what will happen is that the cost of shipping cargoes to Nigerian waters will go up. Insurance too will go up.
“The cargo owner who is eventual payer of this will transfer this unto the goods or raw materials that he has imported. He will add that to the cost of production and transfer it to the ultimate consumer so you will have what is called imported inflation making prices of those affected shipments higher than normal”.
Igbokwe further pointed out that the situation may also similarly worsen the value thereby putting more pleasure on the economy.