COVID 19: Bad Times For the Nigerian Maritime Sector – Jamoh

By Stephen Ubanna

Between December 31, 2020 and  now, the global Maritime sector had been in total shamble  because of the  Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of Peoples Republic of China grown  Coronavirus  disease  which had spread to over 203 countries in the world and claimed thousands of lives.

The situation had been made  worse as the global shipping Industry had been drastically affected as most shipping Lines could not enter into the ports in People Republic of China, Italy, Spain and South Korea including China to carry cargo to other parts of the world including Nigeria because of tough maritime regulatory measures to curb the spread of the deadly disease, described as dangerous, by President Muhammadu Buhari.

Given  that the seaports are the  gateway to the nation’s economy, the Federal government had beamed its  searchlight on Calabarport, Cross river state, where one of the Terminators, operate  a Passenger vessel between Nigerian and Cameroon and the Lagos ports  which handles  between 75% and 90% of the cargo vessels calling at the nation’s ports.

 Aware that the  seaports, both within and outside the country the country are vulnerable to the spread of the disease, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Bashir Jamoh and his Management Team,  were said to have released  fresh guidelines, apart from the general  ones that had already been issued by the Nigerian Center For Disease Control, NCDC, that must be observed by vessels, calling the nation’s seaports.

The agency  officials may have gone tough on the Industry Stakeholders and the shipping Companies to curnb the spread of the  disease in Nigeria. Not that Jamoh, the NIMASA  Director General  had made it clear  that any ocean-going vessel having a history  of having visited  China, Italy, Spain, Iran, Germany, France, south Korea and Iran  or the North American country of the United States, US, as well as  other highly affected  Coronavirus  countries since February 1, 2020,  would not be allowed to enter into  any of the Nigerian ports to discharge their cargoes  between March 30, 2020 to April 12, 2020. This may have informed why there  are so many  vessels  on the high sea, begging to be permitted to enter into Nigerian waters .

More painful to the International shipping Companies  calling  at the nations’ port was the recent  ban  on vessels  without thermal screening  facilities  for its Crew members from operating in country’s water ways.

Jamoh and his Management Team , may have acted based on the advice of the United Nations, UN, World Health Organisation, WHO, the International Maritime Organisation, IMO,  International Labour Organisation, ILO,   and the NCDC, officials.

The NIMASA  Director General , who could not hide his feelings had told those that cares to listen that  the measures initiated  by the agency to protect the nation’s maritime  sector was necessitated by the outbreak of the COVID 19 and to curb its spread in the country.

Note that apart from the  lagos ports of Apapa, Tin-Can Island, Port Multi-services Terminal limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, phasese I and II as well as the Onne, Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Terminal, Port Harcourt Area I, Rivers state, Delta and Calabar ports, in the south east, the other vulnerable areas that could easily  be affected by the  disease are the offshore operations and locations  for the provision of supplies of cargoes, maintenance and repairs of oil  platforms. By foreign Contractors.

The measures, may have been  considered harsh in the country’s shipping circles that Stakeholders  reached out Hassan Bello,  a Lawyer and EExecutive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, to intervene before the Maritime Regulatory agency  start enforcing the new laws at the ports, which might frustrate their operations.

Maritime Stakeholders Visit To NIMASA

 The fallout was that Bello, the NSC , Executive  Secretary had mobilised members of the agency  Management Team, Captains of the Industry  and the Shipping Companies to visit the NIMASA  boss at his Apapa office to talk things over with him.It was a family meeting, according to a source,  as the NIMASA Director General was said to have made them  understand  that “while the government  is concerned  about protecting the lives  of the citizenry, the economy  must  be sustained”.

He  disclosed  that the Coronavirus pandemic  had actually “slowed down  activities in the nation’s maritime sector”, which the industry Operators believe might be worse with the  fresh regulatory measures put in place by the agency.

Appealing to the Industry Stakeholders for more understanding in this trying and difficult times, he averred  based on past experience,  that the  global economy would bounce back to reckoning where the shipping activities would go on  unhindered. Jamoh, the NIMASA boss, who could not hide his feelings consistently had declared: we are going through hard times, insisting that that all hands must be on deck  to sustain the Nigerian economy.

Perhaps, to ensure the continued sustenance of the economy, the NIMASA  boss had suggested the need for collaboration between all the relevant  agencies  in the nation’s maritime sector in this trying times. He may have used the opportunity provided by Bello, the Executive Secretary of NSC, and other other Captains of the Industry recent visit to re-echo his call for collaboration between the various agencies  in  the nation’s maritime sector.

“Let me assure  all  Stakeholders and the shipping Community  that  as a regulatory agency  we will continue  to embrace collaboration’’,  he had said. According to him, what is happening in the world economy, particular, Nigeria I s a phase , stressing that “it will soon be over because  today’s pains are necessary  for tomorrow’s  gains”.

A worried Jamoh, noted that “the world was not prepared  for  the pandemic” , which may have informed why Nigeria and the other 203 countries that had contacted the Contagious deadly Wuhan of the Hebei Province of China virus to ease the pressure on the nation’s maritime sector.

Giving the pains which the fresh regulatory measures may caused the shipping Companies operating in Nigerian waters, Jamoh may have gladdened the heart of  the  Industry Operators when he said, “ we will continue  to review  these guidelines where necessary in order to ensure  that both the indigenous and Foreign shipping Lines does not suffer, particular, “when it comes  to the movement  of medical facilities through the sea into the country.  Take for instance the Face Mask which was said to have been produced by a Company  in the Coronavirus, infested Asian country of China, which is needed all over the world as a preventive measure to curb the spread of the disease.

The visit of the NSC boss and the Captains of the Industry to Jamoh may have also provided  opportunity for him to speak out.He gave his words that all the various agencies in the nation’s maritime sector  would  heed to the call of the NIMASA Director General to work together and energise to ensure ease of information sharing through a single data window as ” it will help the sector to grow”.

 Representatives  of the shipping Companies at the Closed door meeting with NIMASA  boss and his Management   Team were said to have made a case  for the agency to give them a soft landing .They were said to have asked the NIMASA  helmsman and his Management Team to consider a review of  voyages  less than 14 days  in the fresh maritime regulatory notice in order  to avoid  undue delay  and congestion at the ports.    Whether Jamoh and his Management Team would bow to the Pressure from the shipping Companies to do so  remain to be seen.

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