AS a further safeguard against the avoidable importation of Coronavirus, COVID-19, the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, has asked the Federal Government to impose the mandatory 14 days restriction on all cargo vessels, including oil and gas vessels before they are allowed to berth at any of the nation’s seaports.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had last Thursday directed relevant agencies of government to ensure that only cargo ships that have been at sea for more than 14 days are allowed to dock at the port as part of measures aimed at curtailing the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The President, however, said that the new restriction would not apply to vessels carrying oil and gas products because there is minimal human contact with regards to such vessels.
While commending President Buhari for his efforts so far, President-General of MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, said the 14 days restriction on cargo vessels should apply to oil and gas laden vessels to ensure that the few crew on such vessels are tested and confirmed COVID-19 free by port health officials.
He said: “The directive is in the interest of Nigerians, dockworkers and people working in the port because we may not know the health challenge of the crew even up to the level of the captain. So if the government says NPA should quarantine vessels coming in for 14 days, I think it is better for us so that all our members and people working onboard the vessel will be safe.
“For the oil and gas ships, some of them are mechanised but there is no way they will not have crew on board. If you apply quarantine to the cargo vessel, I think the petroleum vessel too should be quarantined. Whatever happens to A must also apply to B. That is what we are suggesting because it is the same.
“By the time the petroleum vessels berth at NOJ and other jetties, we have dockworkers who are our members that will work on them. Most of the vessels are berthing at Waziri jetty, NOJ and other jetties, so they need to quarantine them too because we don’t know where they are coming from.”
Adeyanju supports the thinking in some quarters that ports should remain open despite the ravaging threats of COVID-19 because of its economic importance. He opined that with the level of preparation by the Nigerian Ports Authority to respond to the global pandemic, and the reduction of human traffic, the threat can be controlled.