There is need for Nigeria’s seaports to remain open at all times while the federal and state governments battle to contain the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Vicky Haastrup, chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), says.
“As we face the global public health crisis, we advise government to ensure that the supply chain is not disrupted and the seaports keep running. Even if other sectors of the economy are shut down to guard against the spread of the virus, the seaports should remain open to ensure that there is no shortage of food, drugs and other essential supply to Nigerians,” Haastrup said in a statement issued from her office on Monday.
According to Haastrup, the shipping sector is key in contributing to secure the continuity of economic activities, ensuring supply chains to industries; transport essential goods, including energy and food supplies, and transport of vital medical and protective equipment.
She stated that allowing port business would help to increase the chance of the economic recovery on the other side of the outbreak. “The continued functionality of the ports and port ecosystems is imperative for securing movement of goods at scale, for prevention of shortages and thus for maintenance of public order,” she said.
Citing examples, she stated that observations from China and the European Union show that the functionality of ports and transport systems must be a priority in the effort to manage COVID-19 outbreak and help minimise the impact of precautionary measures on the fluidity of trade and port operations.
“Central actions were supplemented by local initiative from local logistics and shipping industry. While much of Chinese society was in lockdown during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, Chinese ports continued operations with minimum disruptions. This was not least due to the top-down instruction by the Chinese government to stay open and prioritise business continuity in all provinces across the country,” she stated.
She assured that to guard against the virus’ transmission through the ports, terminal operators were working with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to ensure that ships arriving the country report crew list and their health status before being allowed to berth.
She further said port workers and users were being continually enlightened on their roles and safety measures, while adequate personal protective equipment had been provided for workers.
Recall that the NPA said at the weekend that vessels were still allowed to call Nigerian ports with imports and to take export cargoes.
According to the authority, the decision to keep the port business alive was based on the information received from the Port Health, which comprises of experts in health matters.
Adams Jatto, general manager, corporate and strategic communications of NPA, said the authority had not received any contrary view or advice to close down the port from the Port Health.