The Managing Director of Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, has called for the lifting of the order to detain vessels from countries with over 1,000 COVID-19 cases.
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 was 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.
But speaking during a webinar on Wednesday, Usman said there is need for dynamic actions against the virus, even as she called for the reversal of the decision that vessels from countries with over 1,000 cases should be detained for additional 14 days.
She said crew members from the vessels are those who ought be detained to check the spread of the virus, and not the vessels themselves.
She said, “We need to remain at alert, conscious and dynamic enough to go with the flow however it goes. But importantly to ensure that the gateway to the economy is to ensure that the ports remain open, recognising that the flow of infection into the country is not the vessel that has the infection as it were. It is not to detain vessels.
“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 infection. 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.
“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.”
Usman called for the free movement of vessels in line with the advisor issued by international bodies including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
She said the Federal Government needs to “remain dynamic, open, engage with stakeholders and take some of these policies one day at a time”.
“So in line with the IMO submission where it is clear that member states should ensure that vessels are given the necessary free passage into and out of ports, we all need to live into that and convince the Presidential Task Force and indeed convince all stakeholders that priority should be given for vessels to come in and out as required.
“We already have some challenges, so we should not put in place additional barriers to prevent this inflow into our ports,” she added.