Covid-19: FG begins 14-day quarantine of cargo vessels

  • As NPA, terminal operators waive 21-day demurrage
  • NCDC says six infections discovered in oil rig, not cargo vessel

All Nigeria-bound cargo vessels, except those carrying oil and gas, must henceforth spend 14 days at sea before they could be allowed to berth at any Nigerian port, the Federal Government has said.

This was contained in a letter circulated on the social media Friday and signed by President Muhammadu Buhari, on measures to contain the spread of the deadly Coronavirus (Covid-19), a portion of which was a directive to the Port Health authorities and loosely to the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

“I have also directed that only cargo vessels that have been at sea for more than 14 days be allowed to dock in our ports, after the crew have been tested and confirmed disease-free by the Port Health authorities,” the letter partly read.

“This 14-day restriction, however, does not apply to vessels carrying oil and gas products as by their nature, there is minimal human contact.”

The new measure came after the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had on Thursday announced the first six cases of the virus infection from an oil rig, which it loosely categorised as a vessel, thereby prompting a wide reaction from maritime stakeholders and the general public.

Sequel to the apprehensions that it generated, the NPA which, alongside the Port Health, had no record of confirmed cases yet, had asked the NCDC for details, including the name of the vessel and the terminal or jetty where it berthed, to enable verification and proper record keeping.

According to the NPA, this was “to reassure stakeholders who raised concern over the announcement that six cases were found on a vessel when they as shipping companies, terminal operators and jetty operators did not witness any such passengers through their respective COVID-19 protocol.”

However, the NCDC clarified that the cases were not discovered on cargo vessels but on Siem Marlin, an oil rig on the high sea offshore Lagos, which was accessed by the Lagos State Government and the NCDC by helicopter.

Meanwhile, in view of the pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic imposes on businesses, the NPA has directed all terminal operators to suspend all applicable terminal storage fees (demurrage) on consignments for an initial period of 21 days effective March 23, 2020.

A statement by the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Mr. Adams Jatto, added that the agency “recognises the financial implications of these policies on the terminal operators and will consider a shift in our operational charges to ameliorate the situation of stakeholders.”

In another development, the NPA announced that, alongside other shareholders, it was donating the fully furnished 130-bed Agura Hotels, Abuja as an isolation centre to the Federal Government.

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