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COVID-19: Terminal operators decry continued physical examination of cargoes

The Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) has expressed worry at the continued manual examination of cargoes at the seaports in the face of the current global health crisis.

The Chairman of the association, Princess Vicky Haastrup, expressed the worry in a statement in Lagos.

According to the chairman, there is a need for the Nigeria Customs Service to deploy technology to drive the process.

She said that the manual examination of cargoes was not efficient and did not promote social distancing.

”We have a situation where people must visit the port physically to do customs documentation and cargo examination before they can take delivery of their consignments; this is not safe at this time of health concerns; it is also inefficient.

”The Nigeria Customs Service should do everything possible to install functional scanners at the ports to reduce physical examination of cargoes to reduce human contacts.

”Customs should also make it possible for consignees to process their released documents and make necessary duty payments online, without visiting the ports or customs commands,” she said.

The chairman added that there was the need to reduce the number of government agencies participating in cargo examination at the ports in addition to reducing the number of checks carried out on cleared cargos both inside and outside the ports.

”Customs clearing process must become smart at this time,” she said.

She urged that due to the declining oil revenues, Nigeria must begin to make deliberate attempts to shift its balance of trade.

According to Haastrup, Nigeria must move quickly from being a net importer to a net exporter of food.

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She urged the Federal Government to support farmers more for better agricultural yields that would attract international market.

”Farmers will also need to be supported in reducing wastages experienced during harvests and in the course of getting their produce to the market.

”Funding and logistics support for farmers are also of great importance at this time.

”Adequate storage, inventory management and transportation are key activities that represent the most serious constraints facing our agric export today. These will need to be addressed by governments,” she said.

According to the chairman, governments should also strive to simplify the cumbersome processes and bureaucratic bottlenecks associated with documentation and processing of export cargoes.

She noted that at the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, terminal operators engaged the Federal Government on the need to ensure that the nation’s seaports remained open during lockdowns so as to ensure that the supply chain was not disrupted.

”The ports had to remain open to ensure that there was no shortage of food, drugs and other essential supplies to Nigerians.

”The shipping sector is key in securing continuity of economic activities, ensuring supply chains to industries, transportation of essential goods, including energy and food supplies, transportation of vital medical and protective equipment.

”The maritime and connected transports were allowed to continue, and government worked actively to support the sector throughout the period of the crisis.

”I am happy that the president and the NPA saw the merit in this argument and classified the ports and shipping operations as essential services during the lockdown, and I give praise to the NPA, Customs and terminal operators for ensuring that the ports operated optimally during this period,” she said.

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She said that in addition to sustaining its operations, the association donated N700 million to the Federal Government to support the country’s effort in curtailing the spread of the pandemic.

”We also supported the port community through massive awareness campaigns and donation of various protective items such as facemasks, hand gloves, overalls, hand sanitisers and infrared thermometers – to the NPA, Customs and other government agencies at the various port locations across the country.”

Punch

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