Following the new protocols by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) designed to lift barriers to crew changes, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA] has stated that seafarers and dockworkers are on essential duties and exempted from travel restrictions which may hinder necessary movement for crew change.
However, the agency directed that special and dedicated means of transportation shall be used by companies to convey the seafarers and such means must be disinfected before being used within the recommended minimum hours before boarding the vessel.
The exemptions are contained in a new guideline developed and published by the Agency to support essential services in Nigeria’s shipping sector, stating that the jobs of dockworkers at the nation’s seaports, terminals, and jetties are essential to the economy, therefore, dockworkers should be granted passage between their places of abode and the seaports/terminals and jetties to perform their duties.
The advice also declares that seafarers are on essential duty and as such exempted from the curfew and travel restrictions, which may hinder necessary movement for crew change. It directs companies employing the services of seafarers to provide special and dedicated means of transportation to convey the seafarers, adding that such transport system must be disinfected within the recommended minimum hours.
The guideline specifically provides for the mandatory use of facemasks within all terminals and jetties, mandatory temperature check on all staff before access to terminals, and denial of entry to persons who present temperature above 38°C. It makes it mandatory for all dock labour employers to develop risk assessments and safety intervention guidelines for all personnel and operations in the areas of vulnerability within their maritime operations that can be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including cargo handling, access control, and rostering procedures.
Dock labour employers are also to devise methods of ensuring that dockworkers absent from their duties for issues relating to COVlD-19 are quarantined and compensated for the suspension of earnings they suffer as a consequence.
Furthermore, all dock labour employers are to ensure that buses deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic carry a 50 per cent maximum capacity in line with Federal Government directives, and all passengers wear facemasks. Such buses must have hand sanitisers for all drivers’ and passengers’ use and be frequently disinfected.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the latest guideline was meant to contain the coronavirus pandemic while also supporting the continuation of the economy.
Jamoh stated: “Like President Muhammadu Buhari said, no economy can survive total lockdown. If you look at it critically, maritime is an essential duty, with the major actors being seafarers and dockworkers. This is why we continually come up with guidelines to ease their operations so that activities in our ports will not suffer.”
The Director General emphasised the prohibition of loitering around port premises and charged dock labour employers to ensure social distancing of two meters is maintained between people in the workplace and other public spaces within and around port terminals.
The guideline is in sync with those issued by the United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Labour Organisation (ILO), as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
This information was contained in a press release signed by the Head of Corporate Communications, NIMASA, Mr. Philip Kyanet.