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Nigeria beams searchlight on vessels from India, Brazil, South Africa

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Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello (right), handing over the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) to Director, Port Health Services, Dr. Geoffrey Okatubo during a courtesy visit in Abuja.

To curtail the import of COVID-19 to Nigeria through the seaports, the Federal Government has begun plans to give special attention to vessels from India, Brazil and South Africa.

In India about 3417 people died of COVID-19 in one day; Brazil, 2406; and South Africa recorded 11 deaths as of May 2, 2021. The Director, Port Health Services (PHS), Dr. Geoffrey Okatubo made this known during the visit of the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Hassan Bello, in Abuja.

Bello was at PHS as part of efforts to implement the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) through collaboration of agencies. He 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.

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According to him, since doing business at the ports is tied to time, there is a need for the Port Health Services, as the first agency to interact with vessels and crew, to reduce the time spent onboard, by performing their inspection between 30 – 45 minutes with a maximum of 3 officers.

Executive Secretary/CEO, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello (right), handing over the Nigerian Port Process Manual (NPPM) to Director, Port Health Services, Dr. Geoffrey Okatubo during a courtesy visit in Abuja.

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 Shippers Council boss 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 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.

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However, 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 is achievable. However, he explained, 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 further stated that due to the emergence of the new strain of the virus, special attention needs to be given to vessels arriving from Brazil, South Africa and India.

He added that the PHS is 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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