BETWEEN January and now that the news about the Asian Country of China, originated deadly disease, COVID 19 broke out, Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), and her management team have been doing everything within their powers to prevent the spread of the virus into the country through the seaports. The NPA Management is said to have put the pilots and medical personnel on the red alert.
National Light gathered that at the instance of Hajia Usman, Jatto Adams, the General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications and the agency medical personnel were said to have been involved in taking the sensitisation awareness campaign message to stop the ”spread of the deadly virus in the country to the major seaports at Calabar, Onne, Delta and Rivers port.
The Adams led committee was said to have also conducted the Coronavirus sensitization programme for the staff at headquarters at Marina, Lagos.
The NPA Managing Director was said to have taken the Coronavirus sensitisation awareness Campaign serious following the insistence by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which directed that countries, agencies of government and other Corporate Organisations, including their employees have a role to play to stop the spread of the sickness.
People with weakened immune systems, diabetic, heart and lung disease patients are said to be more vulnerable to the sickness which makes the case worse. The incubation period for the sickness, according to medical experts is about six days but extended to 20 days on medical grounds. Note that it takes about 21 days and eight days of screening period for a container or cargo vessel to sail from China and other Asian countries to Nigeria while it takes about two weeks to sail from Europe to the country.
Adams, who was said to have reminded the terminal operators, shipping companies and other Industry stakeholders at the workshop of the essence of the training, noted that it was essentially to acquaint them with the issue relating to the Coronavirus, which is gradually ravaging the world.
Describing the ” sickness as real”, the NPA General Manager stressed the need to take all the necessary precautionary measures to prevent it by regular washing of hands, use of sanitisers and face masks. The general manager of the agency’s Medical Department may have gladdened the heart of industry operators when she disclosed that they had deployed 5,000 sanitisers to the ports.
National Light investigation revealed that the port tug boat pilots and the Habour Masters have also been properly kitted to enter vessels to carry out their inspection. Recall that some four months ago, a container vessel which had arrived at the LPC, from China, was refused entry to the port as it was returned back to the port of origin on suspicion .
Only recently, another Chinese vessel, MV Mandarin, was said to have had a similar problem as it could not be allowed to berth at the port. This is an indication that the port officials are on the red alert to stop the transmission of the sickness through the ports.
NPA officials may have intensified the Coronavirus sensitisation awareness campaign, as the disease has already entered Africa. Note that there had been one or two reported cases of Coronavirus each in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and the West African countries of Nigeria and Senegal.
It is not surprising why the agency is seeking the collaboration of the terminal operators and the shipping companies to enforce the measures put in place to stop the transmission of the sickness through the ports by deploying hand sanitisers at entry points to their terminals. The agency had said that this was the only way their facilities could be secured.
A medical staff of the agency had expressed her worries that when she visited APM Terminal , popular, APMT, at Apapa Port, there was no bucket of water and soap for port users to wash their hands or sanitisers, fueling speculations making the rounds that APMT, which handles over 50 per cent of the container vessels calling the nation’s ports, mostly from China are really not collaborating with the agency to do the needful.
The situation is different from Tincan Island Container Terminal, TICT, where these anti-Coronavirus items were said to have been provided.
LDOL, another terminal operator, on its part, disclosed that it has deployed sanitisers, buckets of water and soap to wash hands at its entry points. The LADOL dele gate disclosed that the terminal operator has an installed machine at the entry gate, noting that the security personnel have been trained on how to operate it to take people’s temperature.
The terminal operator was said to have also established an isolation centre to handle suspected cases of the sickness carriers. LADOL may have thrown a challenge to E.A. Olotu, the LPC, Port Manager, who was said to have promised to provide an Isolation centre at the port.
A Representative of Dangote Group of Companies, which has facilities at the ports, was said to have surprised delegates at the LPC Workshop when she disclosed that the company had donated N200 million to the federal government to fight the menace in the country.
It is instructive to note that the government had set up different committees to tackle the Coronavirus epidemic that is ravaging the world with members drawn from different organisations including the NPA.
Olotu, had interestingly told the delegates at the Coronavirus Workshop that all vessels calling at ports in the Africa Continent are currently being screened at Mauitius, capital of Mauritanian, stressing that the essence of the exercise is to force suspected vessels back to their port of origin.
She had said that ship owners, from the suspected countries that have the disease: China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France and Indonesia had been put on the red alert about the screening exercise at Mauitius . The foreign ship owners are said to be cooperating to make the exercise a success.