As coronavirus spreads like wildfire and nations tighten up their entry points, Nigeria has failed to map out strategies to prevent the importation of the virus through the sea.
The Guardian observed that there are still no serious measures by government agencies such as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, The Ports Health and the Immigration Service to ensure that seafarers coming to Nigeria through the sea are properly screened against the virus.
The seafarers and the dockworkers are the first point of contact at the seaport whenever a foreign vessel is coming into the country.
Coronavirus has reportedly spread to 16 countries now. With the latest tested positive in Cote D’ Ivore, Africa appears to be in vulnerable.
Already, seafarers calling at Chinese ports have been advised to wear masks and take precautionary measures to avoid getting infected with the coronavirus and prevent its potential spread.
When entering Chinese ports, seafarers are expected to remain on board their ships and disembark their vessels only where absolutely necessary.
The local authorities are requiring all vessels to report the temperature and condition of vessel’s crew before entry into the port, the London P&I Club, said.
Ships’ crew are also advised to alert the authorities in the event coronavirus is suspected on board, and take precautions to reduce the possibility of the spread of any virus. These include minimal interpersonal exchanges with people from ashore, avoiding contact with people who show symptoms of flu or high temperature, and taking care of personal hygiene including more frequent hand washing.
The warnings are being issued against the coronavirus outbreak in the inland city, Wuhan, Hubei Province, which has spread to some of China’s port cities such as Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Tianjin. Wuhan city, which is a major domestic and international transport hub, has been quarantined with its bus, rail, air and ship transport shut down.
In Nigeria, the required agencies are yet to begin sensitization for the dockworkers and seafarers.
Spokesperson, NIMASA, Isiche Osamgbi and other top executives did not respond to The Guardian enquiries on the measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus to Nigeria through the seaports.
The President, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Adewale Adeyanju, has called on regulatory agencies at the port to be alert and protect the dockworkers against the virus.
Adeyanju, who stressed the need for sensitization of Nigerian dockworkers and seafarers, said that the union is embarking on sensitization of its seafarers and dockworkers on Coronavirus and how to protect themselves always.
He said: “From next week, we are going to embark on sensitization programmes for the dockworkers and the seafarers. 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 are infected with.
“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.
In Singapore, 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.
Kuwait’s hub for the export of crude, products and gas, Mina Al Ahmadi Port Authority, has also advised that vessels coming directly/last port/transiting from China are to provide a statement declaring if any crew onboard has a high temperature, sore throat, coughing or breathing difficulties.
“Upon arrival, such vessels must drop anchor at the Out of Port Limits Anchorage. The Port Medical Officer (PMO) will board to check crew for any of the above symptoms before clearing the vessel for berthing and other operations.
“These vessels will not be allowed to have shore leave, disembarkation for off signers, supply of provision/bond stores or any other service provided until cleared by Quarantine (PMO) Authorities,” GAC said.
The medical checks and screening of ships across the board are likely to cause delays and disruption to ships’ itineraries.
However, world’s major cruise liner companies have pulled their planned sailings from Shanghai amid efforts to mitigate the potential spread of the coronavirus.
“Due to urgent guidelines from the Chinese government to combat the spread of the coronavirus, MSC Cruises has canceled the cruise with MSC Splendida on January 28,” an MSC Cruises spokesperson said.
Royal Caribbean’s Spectrum of the Seas, which was scheduled to depart on January 27th from Shanghai on its four-day Brest of Okinawa Cruise, has also been cancelled.
Furthermore, Costa Cruises has reportedly canceled its planned sailings on four of its ships: Costa Serena, Costa Atlantica, Costa Venezia and Costa neoRomantica, which were planned to take place from Jan. 25 to Feb. 2, according to Express UK.