The Nigerian Ports Authority has expressed worry over the Nigeria Center for Disease Control’s directive mandating incoming vessels to wait at anchorage for 14 days before approaching berth.
The Managing Director, NPA, Ms Hadiza Bala-Usman said this was bound to worsen the congestion situation at the nation’s seaports.
Bala-Usman expressed this concern on Wednesday during a webinar tagged COVID-19 AND THE NIGERIAN MARITIME SECTOR: LESSONS AND THE WAY FORWARD, which was organised by Mike Igbokwe(SAN).
“We already have some challenges, so we should not put in place additional barriers to prevent this inflow into our ports,” she noted.
She added, “Some of the submissions that we have had from the Presidential Task Force around having vessels wait for 14 days from any country that has above 1,000 infections.
“We have been engaging with the PTF to lift that because almost every sub-region has passed these numbers, so we cannot say vessels should now stay for an additional 14 days. This is a big concern that has been ongoing with shipping companies.”
Bala-Usman pointed out that the vessels were not the ones typically infected by COVID-19 but the crew, adding, “I keep saying that it is better for us to have those around the crew because the crew could be the ones that have any form of infection as it were, and ports health and NCDC have the necessary protocol applicable to that.”
According to her, there needs to be free movement of vessels in line with the advisor issued by international bodies including the International Maritime Organisation.
She stressed the need for the Federal Government to remain dynamic open and engaging with stakeholders.
She said, “Some of these policies need to be taken one day at a time.
“So in line with the IMO submission, member states should ensure that vessels are given the necessary free passage into and out of ports.
“We all need to convince the Presidential Task Force and all stakeholders that priority should be given for vessels to come in and out as required.”
Recall that on May 30, President Muhammadu Buhari had ordered all cargo vessels coming into Nigeria to be quarantined for 14 days before they are allowed to berth.
The measures were announced at the time the President announced an initial 14 days lockdown of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory Abuja as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Also the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 had directed a close watch on countries with high rate of infection, as flights were banned from countries with over 1,000 cases.