By Godfrey Bivbere
STAKEHOLDERS have commended the Nigerian Ports Authority’s, NPA handling of port operations during the period of the lockdown as a result of global coronavirus pandemic. The stakeholders explained that NPA did not only stop the collection of demurrage by terminal operators, it also facilitated the refund of monies collected from importers and their agents during this period.
Speaking on the efforts of the NPA, President of the Shippers Association Lagos State, SASL, Jonathan Nicol, commended the Hadiza Bala Usman led NPA for securing demurrage and storage waivers for importers to cover the period of compulsory lockdown. SALS was concerned that the lockdown made it impossible for shippers to pay Customs duties as expected because many banks were shut down. According to him, “Factories and offices were also shut. So, there were gross limitations on shippers to do the needful. Shippers should not be sanctioned for a situation that was no fault of theirs,” he said.
Similarly, National Secretary of ANLCA, Alhaji Babatunde Mukhaila confirmed that many members of the association have received a refund of their demurrage paid during the period that the NPA waived the charges. It was also learnt that members of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, have also been reimbursed demurrage payments made during the lockdown.
They also commended NPA for donating of face masks and making port concessionaires to do the same to port operators, especially Customs officers and freight forwarders who are very critical agents affecting trade as the pandemic bit harder. The NPA also inaugurated an 11-man Emergency Response Team at its corporate headquarters in Lagos. The team is strategic and respond immediately in case of emergencies at the authority’s headquarters and the port locations, with members mandated to be ready to put themselves at the frontline of emergency response.
To check the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in the ports, the NPA management had earlier released and enforced guidelines for port users while transacting business in the port, the stakeholders noted. They listed some of the guidelines to include drastic reduction of human movement within the port facilities; only those who have jobs such as clearing of consignments are allowed access to the port; port users must maintain at least 1metre or three feet distance from each other as a physical distancing measure and all persons using the port are seen to ensure strict personal hygiene. NPA security are also working to ensure that all service providers at the port have hand washing and hand sanitising facilities at their entrances.
The Managing Director, NPA, Hadiza Bala-Usman, also mandated that two teams be constituted at the port levels vis- a- vis Port Emergency Management Team (PEMT) and Port Emergency Response Team (PERT) with details of their membership and modus shall be duly communicated to all the port locations.
Putting every head of departments at the hearts of the committees, the NPA boss demanded officers to have a sense of responsibility to duty and ensure effective collaborations at such delicate periods.