COVID-19: Port operators, shipping companies flouting social distancing directive ― NSC
• Says agents besieging ports unnecessarily
The Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) over the weekend revealed that during its daily monitoring exercise carried out to monitor compliance with the existing health and safety guidelines for prevention and containment of the spread of COVID-19 pandemic at the ports, it was observed that some shipping companies and terminals do not have adequate waiting areas, thereby exposing clearing agents and other users of their services to the coronavirus elements.
According to a statement signed over the weekend by the NSC Management, he ports economic regulator explained that “During our daily monitoring exercise at the ports, it was observed that some shippers, through no fault of theirs, are unable to take delivery of their cargoes because of lack of public transportation, inadequate banking services, and limited service by service providers due to reduced workforce, etc.
“Based on the foregoing, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council has directed shipping companies to suspend demurrage charges during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown with effect from 30th March 2020. This strictly applies to cargo that was discharged at the terminals from the 30th of March 2020.
“Some other observations noticed during our daily monitoring exercise include: Some shipping companies and terminals do not have adequate waiting areas, thereby exposing clearing agents and other users of their services to the elements.
“Also, it was observed that services rendered by some terminals and shipping companies are slow and sometimes non-functional, thereby encouraging the clustering of agents at the entrance of their premises. It was further observed that some do not have functional help-lines and customer relations desks.
“For freight forwarders, we observed that some clearing agents who gather at premises of shipping companies and terminals have no genuine reasons to be there. They can transact most of their businesses (such as a request for rotation number, submission of the invoice, payment of terminal charges, etc) online.
“Most of the agents do not comply with the health and safety guidelines of the COVID-19 within and outside the premises of the shipping companies and terminals.
“Based on the following observations, the NSC, therefore, urges the following: Terminals and shipping companies to provide decent waiting areas for freight forwarders and other port users. Shipping companies and terminals are to take responsibility for social distancing and other health and safety guidelines.
“Shipping companies and terminals should improve on the level of compliance to self-distancing guidelines within their environment.
“Shippingcompanies and terminals should upgrade their online services to discourage human contact especially during the COVID-19 period and at all times.
“Shipping companies and terminals should provide functional help-lines to enable agents make necessary inquiries as well as obtain information to avoid physical presence.
“All freight forwarders should comply with the self-distancing guidelines as well as other health and safety regulations.
“Freight forwarders should patronise online platforms of the shipping companies and terminals such as the submission of documents, rotation number etc., and try to minimize as much as possible, physical presence at the terminals, banks and shipping company premises.
“Unless it is compelling and absolutely necessary, freight forwarders should stay at home and visit the terminals and shipping companies only when they have business to conduct which they cannot otherwise transact online.”