14-day vessel quarantine will worsen port congestion, NPA warns

From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has urged the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to aim its 14-day quarantine directive at the crew of in-bound vessels, who might be Covid-19 positive, rather than the vessels, in order to avoid congestion at the ports.

NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala-Usman, who spoke during a webinar organised by Mike Igbokwe (SAN) and titled, “Covid-19 and the Nigerian Maritime Sector: Lessons and the Way Forward,” warned against putting additional barriers to the existing challenges to the inflow of cargo into the ports.

Usman likened President Muhammadu Buhari’s May 30, 2020 directive that all in-bound vessels be quarantined for 14 days before going to berth to “some of the submissions that we have had from the Presidential Task Force on having vessels from any country that has above 1,000 infections wait for 14 days.

“We have been engaging 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.”

Noting that the crew are the ones typically infected, she stressed 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.”

While urging the Federal Government to be engage stakeholders, be dynamic and open, Usman insisted on free movement of vessels in line with requirements by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and similar bodies.

“Some of these policies need to be taken one day at a time,” she said. “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 to vessels to come in and out as required.”

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