COVID-19: Nigeria places vessels from Brazil, South Africa, India on watchlist

Due to the resurgence of the new strain of COVID-19, the Federal Government, on Friday, said it is paying special attention to vessels arriving from Brazil, South Africa and India into Nigerian ports.

In a press statement issued on Friday by the Spokesperson of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Mrs Rakiya Yagboyaju, the agency revealed that the Director of Port Health Services, Dr Geoffrey Okatubo said that due to the emergence of the new strain of the COVID-19 virus, the nation is beaming its searchlight on vessels coming from India, Brazil and South Africa.

Okatubo made the disclosure when the Executive Secretary of the NSC, Mr Hassan Bello, paid a working visit to the Port Health Services (PHS) in Abuja.

Speaking at the event, Hassan Bello emphasised the need to clean up the ports by embracing orderliness, efficiency and zero corruption.

He described the NPPM as a useful and important manual that all relevant agencies in the port system should abide by.

He stated that since doing business at the ports was tied to time, there was a need for the Port Health Services, as the first agency to interact with vessels and crew, to reduce the time spent on board, by performing their inspection between 30 – 45 minutes with a maximum of three officers.

Bello added that the turnaround time for ships can also be reduced through a pre-arrival communication between the vessels and the PHS so that every activity performed on the arrival of vessels on Nigeria’s shores would be for verification alone.

The ES stated that one area of concern that enables corrupt practices at the ports is vessel agents offering transportation to inspecting agencies. This, he noted should be provided by the government or the PHS.

While encouraging the PHS to reach out to the NSC with any issue, Bello suggested that the PHS should publish infractions committed by vessels calling at Nigerian ports.

Responding, the Director, Port Health Services, Dr Okatubo, congratulated the NSC on its appointment by the Federal Government as the lead agency to coordinate and supervise the implementation of the NPPM.

Regarding the 30 – 45 minutes vessel inspection, he stated that as long as there is no issue with a ship, it was achievable.

However, he explained that inspections can take longer than 45 minutes because of the peculiarities of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given rise to more activities onboard vessels. These include checking the temperature and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test of the entire crew.

He added that the PHS was working towards publishing penalties for infractions and is also solidly behind the Council, in the performance of its roles and responsibilities.

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