COVID-19: NPA faults PTF order on detaining vessels from high-risk countries

•Says directive inimical to shipping

Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), has faulted the order by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19 that vessels from countries with over 1,000 cases should be detained for additional 14 days, calling for the lifting of the order to prevent additional problems for the nation’s maritime domain.

Recall that the presidential task force on COVID-19 had directed a close watch on countries with a high rate of infection, as flights were banned from countries with over 1,000 cases.

Speaking on Wednesday at a webinar with maritime stakeholders tagged: ‘COVID-19 and the Nigerian Maritime Sector: Lessons and Way Forward’, Usman said there is a need for dynamic actions against the novel coronavirus.
The NPA MD called for the reversal of the PTF decision that vessels from countries with over 1,000 cases should be detained for an additional 14 days.

She said crew members from the vessels are those who ought to be detained to check the spread of the virus, and not the vessels themselves.

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According to the NPA MD, “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 infections. 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 such law 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 flow of vessels in line with submissions of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

She added that 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,” she said.

“We already have some challenges, so we should not put in place additional barriers to prevent this inflow into our ports.”

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