From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
To help shield Nigeria from the new and more deadly strain of the Covid-19 virus, the Federal Government is planning a special scrutiny of vessels from Brazil, South Africa and India, the Director of Port Health Services (PHS), Dr. Geoffrey Okatubo, has said.
Okatubo spoke in Abuja during a courtesy visit by the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Office of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello, who came to solicit the PHS’ collaboration in the implementation of the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM).
Bello had earlier explained the benefits of the NPPM, noting that since port business is time-bound, the PHS, as the first agency to interact with vessels and crew, as well as all other relevant agencies in the port, should embrace the application to restore orderliness, efficiency and zero corruption at the ports.
He said the manual would help the PHS to keep inspection time onboard vessels within 45 minutes, with a maximum of three officers, according to a statement from the NSC Head of Public Relations, Rakiya Yagboyaju.
It will further improve ships’ turnaround time through pre-arrival communication between them and the PHS, while limiting the agency’s other activities on the ships’ arrival to verification.
While urging the agency to reach out to the NSC on any relevant issue, Bello decried the situation whereby vessel agents, rather than the Federal Government or the PHS, provide transportation for inspecting agencies, describing it as an enabler of corrupt practices at the ports.
Responding, Okatubo explained that in view of the peculiarities of the Covid-19 pandemic, which have prompted more activities aboard vessels, including checking the temperature and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test of the entire crew, the 45-minute inspection time may not be achievable at present.