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Nigeria Port agencies silent on Coronavirus outbreak precautions?

Maritime stakeholders have raised an issue of urgent national importance saying the level of silence so far maintained by all the federal maritime agencies on the current global health crisis, the Coronavirus pandemic has become worrisome.

Some of the Lagos ports business operators, who spoke to our correspondent on Wednesday in Lagos expressed worries on why even the Federal Port health, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) and even NIMASA, which is more directly involved considering its position in maritime safety are yet to issue any kind of precautionary statement or activate their emergency health signals across the Nigerian ports.

Already, global statistics show that coronavirus outbreak is taking its toll on the maritime industry, with ports worldwide seeking additional information on seafarers’ health and ship-owners insisting on a special clause in charter party agreements, or CPAs, and a few even reluctant to call at Chinese ports.

Stakeholders’ say just like the international airports are making extra efforts in monitoring and surveillance, so should be at the ports as nobody can say from where it can invade the country.

Fact checks show that in the dirty tanker market, some Japanese owners are trying to get a “virus” clause inserted into CPAs to ensure there is proper inspection of crew at concerned terminals, a Tokyo-based shipbroker said. This was time-consuming and involved a cost, which owners want to be put on the charterers’ account, the source said.

Observers say considering the statistics that majority of Nigeria’s imports originate from China, maritime agencies ought to have been more heard and worried than airport regulators in this precarious season of Coronavirus global scourge.

However, there are indications that the Nigerian Port health may have started doing something even though the publicity of its actions remains very poor according to industry observers.

According to a memo originating from the agency, it quotes the Director of Port Health Services at the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa, Olokodana Abisola as revealing that critical human interfacing agencies like the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Plant Quarantine Services and the Nigeria Immigration Service have been put on red alert.

Analysts say apart from the routine memo circulation amongst sister port agencies; more is still needed from a combined team of the agencies in monitoring berthing cargoes and their crew members going forward.

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