Low Awareness at Seaports, Ferry Terminals as Coronavirus Spread to Africa

Low Awareness at Seaports, Ferry Terminals as Coronavirus Spread to Africa

… FG Places Vessels from China, Japan On Strict Surveillance 

 

Abiola Seun

 

There is palpable tension among stakeholders operating in the nation’s seaports over low awareness and sensitisation against coronavirus at the Lagos seaport and ferry terminals in the state.

The coronavirus was confirmed in the Chinese city of Wuhan on January 7, 2020 and with a considerable community of African students in China and a number of them have expressed their desire to return home as authorities struggle to contain the virus.

For instance, Ethiopia’s state-affiliated FANA broadcasting corporate, FBC, reported that four Ethiopians suspected of being infected by coronavirus have been placed in isolation, said the Ministry of Health.

“The students arrived in Ethiopia from a university in Wuhan, China’s worst-affected city by the disease,” the report added.

Kenya Airways on Tuesday also confirmed that one of its passengers who had travelled from the Chinese city of Wuhan to Nairobi had presented coronavirus-like symptoms and was rushed to hospital on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Ivory Coast on Monday also became the first African country to test a suspected Coronavirus case, when a female student arrived at an airport in the capital with suspicious symptoms.

Investigation had shown that there is no temperature screening machine at entry points of both the Apapa and Tin Cabland ports.

Also, ferry terminals at Marina, CMS area also vulnerable as no sensitisation or temperature check from boat operators to passengers plying Apapa, Ikorodu and Victoria Island.

The dockworkers are known worldwide to be the first point of contact with foreign seafarers at the seaport whenever a foreign vessel berth at Nigerian ports.

Also, most seafarers on foreign vessels are mostly from Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines among others.

But, despite Nigeria vulnerability because most of her import is from China, there are still no serious measures put in place by government agencies such as The Ports Health, The Nigerian Quarantine service and the Immigration Service to ensure that seafarers coming to Nigeria through the sea are properly screened against the virus.

Also, no temperature check for dockworkers exiting the seaports after contact with foreign seafarers that berth at the ports.

Unlike Nigeria, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), has implemented temperature screening at all sea checkpoints, including ferry and cruise terminals, PSA Terminals and Jurong Port, for inbound travellers from January 24, 2020.

“Travellers and ship crew arriving at sea checkpoints will undergo temperature screening conducted by on-site healthcare assistants. Suspect cases will be referred to the hospitals for further assessment,” the MPA said.

But, Nigeria seaports which handled 80 percent of cargoes to West, Central Africa is yet to embarked on sensitisation programmes across the port environment. Also, none of the lead agencies that have contacts with ship crews had either sensitized their officials nor port stakeholders.

 

Speaking, a dockworker at one of the bulk terminals at Lagos port complex, Apapa simply identified as Collins said they have been sensitized on the deadly virus but not by any government agencies operating at the ports.

Collins who feared that most Nigerian import comes from China said individual stevedoring companies are the one engaging them on the virus.

He said, “No government agencies have engaged us and even though our companies are sensitising but we are still scared because it the virus will none difficult to contain if it enters Nigeria.”

“Most of Nigeria import are from China in fact, the vessel we are handling presently came from China but we are also exercising caution on our side,” he said.

However, the confirmation of six seafarers onboard CMA/CGM, a French shipping company of falling ill on board from Sri Lanka are has created fear among stakeholders especially dockworkers who however called for sensitisation.

The six seafarers are, having fever, on board of container vessel CMA CGM Ural, according to Maritime Bulletin. The boxship earlier in January called the ports of Shenzhen, Xiamen, Ningbo-Zhoushan and Yangshan in China, there are fears that seamen may be affected from coronavirus.

 

However, expressing fear, the president-general, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Com. Adewale Adeyanju has charged regulatory agencies at the port on sensitization of Nigerian dockworkers and seafarers.

According to him, the seafarers and the dockworkers are the first point of contact at the seaport whenever a foreign vessel is coming into the country.

Adeyanju called on the Nigerian Immigration Service and the Port Health to be on their toes and approach vessels with utmost caution.

“The Nigerian Immigration Service also needs to wake up and do their job, the seafarers coming into our ports now, nobody knows the type of sickness they carry. I was told that the Corona Virus emanated from China.

“The Port Health also have to wake up, the immigration service needs to also be very careful before they board any vessel, they must be well kitted, this is a serious matter that involves the life of dockworkers, seafarers and other port users,” he said.

When contacted, the general manager, corporate and Strategic Communications of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Engr. Adam Jatto said the authority has put machinery in place to sensitise dockworkers who are first contact when ship berth at the port.

According to him, officials of port health are monitoring those coming and going out of the port.

But, when asked that dockworkers have complained lack of sensitisation, he said, “before the end of today (Wednesday), things will take shape,” he told our correspondent on phone.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Health has placed vessels from some Asian countries especially China, Japan, Thailand and South Korea on strict surveillance.

This follows the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus that has claimed several lives in some of these countries.

This is with a view of checkmating the outbreak of the deadly disease in Nigeria through her seaports and other land borders. The government had earlier taken similar measures at the country’s international airports.

Under the new regulations at the seaports, all vessels coming to Nigeria from China, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and any other affected country must notify the Port Health Services, a unit of the Federal Ministry of Health stationed at the seaports and land borders, failing which the vessel would not be allowed into Nigeria’s territory.

Director of the Port Health Services at the Lagos Ports Complex Apapa, the country’s premier and biggest cargo seaport, Olokodana Abisola, who confirmed the development, also disclosed that relevant agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, Nigeria Plant Quarantine Services and the Nigeria Immigration Service, among several others have all been put on red alert.

According to him, the Port Health Services has also sensitised all other port stakeholders on the outbreak of the deadly virus and on the need to take precautionary measures to ensure that disease does not creep into Nigeria through the seaports or land entry points.

He also disclosed that all crew members of vessels from the affected countries would be subjected to various health screening exercises including taking their temperatures to ascertain their health status before they are allowed into the nation’s territory, which also informed the need for them to notify the Port Health office 48 hours before their arrival.

A statement by the Port Health Services issued out to stakeholders on the outbreak of the virus reads in part: “Port Health Services wishes to notify all port users, agencies and stakeholders of the outbreak of Coronavirus in China, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.

“That any vessel coming to Nigeria through the above-named countries must notify the Port Health Services 48 hours before arrival to forestall any outbreak of this virus in Nigeria”.

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