COVID-19: Importers, agents besiege Lagos ports

Oluwakemi Dada

Despite the outbreak of  Coronavirus in the country, the Lagos seaports are bubbling, The Nation reports.

Findings revealed that  clearing agents, importers, freight forwarders and other port users are trooping out in their large numbers to the various Customs commands, shipping firms, port terminals and the banks to get their cargoes before they accrue demurrage.

Investigation also revealed that some of the port users and other stakeholders in their desperation to enter the Customs Processing Centre (CPC) at Apapa and Tin Can Island Port do not even make use of facilities provided by government agencies to reduce the risk of COVID-19.

Former President, National Association of Government Approved FreightForwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Eugene Nweke, bemoaned the worrisome trend. He advised the port users not to sacrifice in their quest to make money and generate revenue for the Federal Government.

“At some of the ports’ entrance gates, the only measure put in place by the terminal operators is body temperature checker and hand sanitisers,  while inside the terminal it is ‘to your tent O Israel’ – a case of life goes on as usual having crossed the gate,” he said.

He said some of the clearing and forwarding agents even gathered to discuss the COVID-19 and cracked jokes about it, despite the continuous warning by the government.

“Unfortunately, most of the port users seems unperturbed about the Covid-19 ravaging. Usual hand shakes, cracking jokes, crowding Customs desk officers, or offices, or around seating/resting areas, or over the counter ( regardless and incautious of body contact) are still the peculiar character and scenario’s.”

At some of the shipping companies, clearing agents were seen crowding the entrance gates ditto the offdock and bonded terminals.

“The situation is like that because Ithe Freight Forwarders are under serious pressure to deliver their clients imports and willing to go the extra miles to effect so.

“The pressure is compounded mostly so in a prevailing congested ports, traffic gridlocks and worst still, in a traditional, port prone to human contacts to cargo clearance/operational activities” Nweke said.

Meanwhile, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has charged freight forwarders who are still working at the ports despite the outbreak of the CoronaVirus to take safety precautions and avoid any form of physical contact.

The Council urged freight forwarders to make use of online platforms in carrying out necessary transactions in clearing cargoes from the port.

The Registrar, CRFFN, Mr Samuel Nwakohu, said the Council complied with the directive of the Federal Government that workers from level 1-12 should stay at home.

He however said as a critical stakeholder in the supply chain, the Council has also directed that only relevant department and personnel should be at work, adding that its offices nationwide are opened for enquiries and assistance.

“However, the CRFFN passionately advises our immediate stakeholders; the practicing freight forwarders, corporate and individuals, to be conscious of their safety at this trying period of the spread of the deadly COVID -19.

“We are, particularly, worried about the exposure of the foot-soldier freight forwarders who must be physically present during examination and delivery of cargoes of their principals; the shipper.”

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