The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) wants a review of the existing protocol requiring vessels, particularly those coming from countries with records of high COVID-19 cases, to be quarantined for 14 days.
This is even as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) had earlier called for ports to be open to enable ships to keep moving, and cross-border trade to remain operational.
Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, made known the call to review the protocol for vessels quarantine on Wednesday during a Webinar titled “COVID-19 And The Nigerian Maritime Sector: Lessons And The Way Forward” organised by Mike Igbokwe’s firm.
She disclosed how the NPA had been engaging the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, making a case for the need to have free movement of vessels to support international trade and understand how to manage peculiar challenges.
She said: “Some of the submissions that we have had from the Presidential Task Force revolve around having vessels wait for 14 days from any country that has above a thousand infections.
“We have been engaging with the Presidential Task Force to review that because, we are all within the sub-region. Everywhere indeed have passed those numbers and we cannot keep saying vessels coming from Tema or any neighbouring port need to stay at anchorage for an additional 14 days. This, I must say is a big concern that has been ongoing with the shipping companies.
“One of the things that we have learned and understood is the need to prioritise and ensure that the ports remain open, prioritise the need to provide the necessary developments, recognise that you must learn to accommodate some challenges attributable to process, attributable to certain equipment required to conduct the necessary operations.”
The NPA MD noted the importance of remaining open to learning and making necessary adjustments as new guidelines come on daily, understanding that the situation is a global one and Nigeria would have to work in line with the global new needs.
“We need to remain alert, remain very conscious and also be dynamic enough to go on with the flow, however it goes.”
On present operations, the MD said that the NPA had already granted a waiver for the movement of vessels that are meant for servicing and dry-docking in Nigeria.
That development, she said, had enabled vessel owners to competitively dry-dock and service their craft in Nigeria.
The MD added that with the NPA’s bit in promoting that sector, it looked forward to Government’s intervention in keeping the business in Nigeria and develop necessary skills for its growth.