As the dreaded covid 19 pandemic keeps raging across the world, taking lives and ripping the global economy, stringent measures have been put in place to nip the hydra-headed monster in the bud.
World over including Nigeria, measures are being put in place to curtail the spread of the virus as the number of cases are being given necessary attention even though no definite cure has been found for it yet.
In view of the above, Maritime stakeholders expected measures that can also help to incapacitate the virus within the port arena.
Failure of meeting the expectation of the Maritime stakeholders, they have frowned over the inadequate measures provided by the operators and government agencies to stave off the spread in ports.
In view of all the aforementioned, one believes there are issues that need to be learnt and mistakes the industry must correct. The Nigeria’s maritime sector appears to be quasi-privatised. Failure to use scanners to expedite clearing of goods as opposed to manual inspection and the issue of politicising the ease of doing business project and the issue of reactive port processes to a large extent mitigate against some measures.
Looking ahead, use of scanners will reduce congestion and minimise spread of diseases at the ports. How all of these relate to covid-19 is that if the systems are automated, there would be less manual/human interactions at the ports. It showed the issues are perennial, but now haunting us. Ports across Europe and other parts of China are less impacted in the heat of the crises because they are automated. The lesson we should take away from this pandemic is that if we have fully automated our port system, there won’t be any fear of its spread into the sector because there would be fewer human contacts.
This is where the issues of single window, functional scanners come in. In other climes, you see less of human in the ports. Container and commercial operations are continuing at ports across the UK and others unhindered.
Also, the menace of encroachment of port environment by people who have nothing to do at the port comes into play. Automation of port operations may not cure the disease but will certainly curtail its spread.
In telephone chats with some of the stakeholders, they maintained that the Federal Government was not proactive with measures that will cushion the effects of the pandemic on port users and the citizenry at large.
According to them, the lockdown would not be effective if palliatives are not given to the people expected to stay at home.
A chieftain of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Mr. Segun Musa said, “it is better for the economy to be moving rather than being stagnated in the name of lockdown”.
He added, “It is better for the economy to be moving rather than stagnating the economy because, it is going to be a serious disaster that the effects will be more serious than Covid-19 itself at the end”.
Musa further explained that the federal government needs to ensure that all the local confines or local government wards are adequately equipped to be able to attend to any outbreak at any given time.
“So, when there is an event of outbreak within the local confines, people can go to those corridors and get attended to.
“While they are doing that, they are also ensuring that most of the facilities used for accommodating people for testing are also conversely equipped so that anyone suspected to be a victim, can easily be evacuated and I am sure the private sectors are willing to partner in this regard,” Musa said.
“I am sure you know there are casualties of death in the hands of security operatives just to ensure are not moving around.
God forbid that we don’t even record more death in the hands of security operatives more than Covid-19 itself.
“We should not imitate what’s obtainable in the Western world. If we want to be a copycat, we should be looking at what to copy and not this kind of approach.
“We should be looking at our energy provision in 24 hours per day, making our roads to be of the best. These are the things we should be copying from Western world.
“Locking down the economy is not the best thing you can copy from the Western world,” Musa said.
In his own thought, the Director General, Sea Empowerment Initiative (SEI), Mr. Francis Uchechukwu Aniezechukwu made case for media practitioners in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
He said Journalists need to be carried along especially in the area of palliatives and insurance.
“They are supposed to be given palliatives as well. Journalists are supposed to be insured.
“Journalists are supposed to be part these data and cases collection. They are supposed to be part of it.
“Who will disseminate this information if not journalists? They should be empowered,” Aniezechukwu said.
On the guidelines for the 14 days quarantine at the sea ports, Aniezechukwu hinted some shipping companies are already lamenting saying a particular shipping firm said they have ships in the port unattended to.
He queried what is 5 ships compared to human lives and added that in America, thousands of ships are waiting due to Covid-19 pandemic.
In all, it is believed that our nation should look deep, learn the lessons of the present pandemic and take necessary measures in case of future occurrence.
Editing by ‘Biodun Soyele
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