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Vessels’ call at Lagos port shrinks, amid coronavirus fears

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•Customs urged to fast-track clearance of relief consignments
•Shippers’ Council shuts offices, orders staff to work from home

The impact of coronavirus is currently being felt at the nation’s seaports, with only 17 vessels laden with various cargoes are expected to arrive at the Lagos pilotage district between now and April 4, 2020.

The vessels are conveying various cargoes, including petroleum products, wheat, mobile cranes, Soya Beans, salt, sugar, Petcoke, fish, general cargo and containerized consignments among others.

The number of vessels calling at Nigerian ports has continued to shrink amid the fears of coronavirus, even after the Federal Government assured that measures have been put in place at the seaports to contain the import of the virus through the sea.

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Before the outbreak of coronavirus in November 2019, the Lagos pilotage district usually record between 28 and 32 vessels calling at the nation’s busiest seaports in Lagos, but the number has drastically reduced to a paltry 17 and below recently.

In view of the prevailing situation, the Federal Government has been urged to suspend the revenue target given to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) following the impact of the virus on imports.

National President, National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents, Lucky Amiwero, noted that over 50 per cent of Nigeria’s import come from China, but many importers no longer travel to China to buy goods for fear of contracting the disease.

Amiwero urged government to focus on taking strong precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus to help save lives and cancel the target given to Customs pending when the pandemic will last.

Meanwhile, the World Customs Organization (WCO) has called on Customs organizations who are members of the world body to facilitate quick clearance of relief materials meant for the treatment of those with coronavirus.

In a message to member states, the Secretary General of CWO, Kunio Mikuriya, said customs administrations should guidelines on how to clear such consignments without delay.

According to him, the WCO now has a website to update the general public on recommendations and HS Classification reference document for Covid-19 on expected medical supplies.

He said “The dedicated webpage will be updated regularly with further guidance material, Members’ best practices and a database of Customs administrations’ contact points, the latter accessible for members only”.

Also, Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) yesterday, directed workers to work from home.

In a memo titled: “Suspension of work and partial closure of offices,” the management said all staff are to work from home except those on essential services (Medical, Complaints Handling, and General Services).

The NSC who said it has taken measures to contain the spread of the disease within its offices and among its staff and stakeholders but the measures may not be sufficient to prevent infection as the virus is a global disease that scientists and medics are still trying to understand.

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The memo reads in part: “What Is apparent in the meantime is that the person-to-person Infectivity rate of the virus is unprecedentedly high which is why organisations, globally are wisely adopting the precautionary measure of suspending activities and closing down offices while watching developments on the pandemic.”

“Accordingly, the management wishes to hereby direct that all meetings especially external seminars, conferences are hereby suspended indefinitely. All members of staff except those on essential services (i.e. Medical, Complaints Handling, and General Services) are hereby directed to remain at home and work therefrom until further notice.”

The council also advised staff who travelled from countries with high incidences of Convid-19 to self-isolate themselves for 14 days to watch out for symptoms of the virus.

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