Two days public holiday shutdown port operations in Nigeria

THE two-day public holidays declared by the Federal Government in commemoration of the 2019 Eid El-Kabir has led to inactivity at the nation’s seaports in the last 48hours.

In a statement issued over the weekend by leading French Shipping firm, CMA-CGM, the shipping company stated that its operations will be suspended for Monday and Tuesday to honour the public holiday declared by the Federal Government.

According to the statement, “Dear Esteemed Customer, please be informed that the Federal Government has declared Monday,12th & Tuesday,13th of August 2019, as public holidays to mark the Muslim festival, Eid-el Kabir.

Consequently, our offices will be closed for business. We use this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday.”

When Tribune Online visited the Apapa ports on Monday, it was observed that many of the shipping companies, like CMA-CGM, had closed down for the holidays.

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Speaking to Tribune Online, a clearing agent, Augustine Azu wondered why the seaports cannot be operated like the airports. According to Azu, “During public holidays, airports thrive more than during normal days because many people travel by air to their various towns to celebrate the festivity.

“Airlines don’t shut down flight operations when the government declared public holidays. But the case is not the same at the seaports.

“Once the government declare public holidays, shipping companies close down operations in Nigeria to observe the break.

This does not help us in this country because of congestion issues at the ports.

“Once the shipping companies close down operations, there is nothing that can be done at the ports. The terminal operators would also close down operations, the Customs too would not come.

“It’s important that we change our mentality in this country. If the airlines thrive during public holidays and the airports are busy, why should the seaports be closed during the same public holidays? Cargoes are begging to be cleared at the ports, why are we compounding our own problems in this country?”

Confirming the inactivity at the ports to Tribune Online, the Spokesman of the Tin-Can Command of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Uche Ejesieme explained that because Customs cannot work in isolation during public holidays, that is why the Service also stops cargo examination once government declares public holidays.

In his words, “You know that once it’s public holidays, the shipping companies and the terminal operators would close down for business at the ports in Nigeria. And Customs cannot work in isolation without the shipping companies and the terminal operators, so once these people don’t work, then there is nothing we can do. It’s a chain thing at the ports.”