By DAPO OLAWUNI
Stakeholders at Nigerian ports, including the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) and the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) has raised concerns over the lack of social distancing at Nigerian ports, saying that their members are at the risk of contracting the Coronavirus pandemic.
The licensed customs agents berated terminal operators and shipping companies over their failure to embrace automation and online platforms to attend to customers.
Findings by DAILY TREND NEWS at three Terminals at Tin Can Island port; Ports and Cargo Terminal, Five Star Logistics Terminal and TICT showed that not less that 500 clearing agents were clustering together at their marketing departments, all in the bid to get their documents processed.
Chairman of ANLCA at Tin Can Island Chapter, Prince Segun Oduntan in a chat with our correspondent lamented that clearing agents are at the receiving end of the Coronavirus pandemic, despite the fact that they are the chain by which the terminal operators and shipping companies were surviving.
Speaking, he said “There is no social distancing at the port, go to the terminal where they collect debit notes, Ports and Cargo Terminal is still doing manual, TICT Terminal is still doing manual, Five Star is still doing manual, they would tell you to go online but when you go online your services would not be rendered”
“Agents are at the receiving end, if you go to the banks, they are so slow because of the social distancing thing, they have reduced their staff strength and they have distanced themselves from customers”
“The shipping companies have equally distanced themselves from the customers, they will tell you to go online, you would have an issue but there is nobody to treat it, everybody have distanced themselves from the agents
“And there is no palliative from anywhere, ordinary to buy sanitizer and give to port users is not available, it is so bad” he lamented
Also in an exclusive chat with our correspondent, President General of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Comrade Adewale Adeyanju said it has been difficult to observe social distancing at the port due to specific nature of some terminals dealing in bulk cargo operations.
“It is difficult to observe social distancing at the port because of bulk cargo operations”
“ENL Terminal in Lagos and PTOL in Port Harcourt are bulk terminal operators, how do you observe social distancing? Go to TICT, it is the same, when Customs examination is going on, the people cluster” he said
The number one maritime unionist also said that some of the terminal operators are not living up to expectations in this period of COVID-19.
According to him, some terminal operators failed to provide hand gloves, nose masks and other working gears available to their dockworkers. Comrade Adeyanju added that the union discovered a lot of anomalies when he embarked on a daily patrol of the terminals with his executives.
“If the situation continues and the decease keeps spreading and affecting the workers, we would withdraw the workers from the port.
Because we have told terminal operators to do the right thing by way of awareness to all our members” he warned
On his part Comrade Ayokunle Sulaiman, the spokesman of ANLCA at PTML Chapter lamented having direct access to the shipping companies and terminal operators has proved difficult and yet it is not all of them that are digital.
“Imagine a terminal like Ports and Cargo, you still have to interface with them before getting debit note, make payments and get receipts, this is the worst of it, you cannot even pay online for examination, they are not digital”
“They are not digitalised and yet they are charging us demurrage”
“Very few of the shipping companies are digital and they are still struggling to get it right, COVID-19 has exposed them all”
“The irony is that as they continue to learn, we are suffering for it, the more they delay the better for them” he said