COVID-19: Cargoes Should Not Be Subject To Interstate Restrictions---Bello

 Following the lockdown in some maritime states, the Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mr. Hassan Bello has said that cargo should not be subject to interstate restrictions in order to keep the economy of the nation's moving  during the Covid-19 period.

He urged shippers  to use the opportunity of the lockdown to take delivery of cargo from the ports now that the traffic is very light, saying there is no better time to do it  than now.

Bello who disclosed this on Wednesday during his visit with his team to some terminal operators at Lagos ports to intervene on the challenges facing them, said despite the challenge is that cargo should  be allowed to reach its destinations across the country.

He added: "I'm always scared about the congestion on both sides that will happen if cargo is not taking out of the port. We have terminals with 95 per cent occupancy rate. We are doing the same thing at Port Harcourt where people are not allowed to convey their goods from the port.

"We are talking to Authority to make sure this thing is allowed. There should be movement of cargo. Some cargo should not be subject to interstate restrictions. Cargo should reach its destination, that is why even the airport we have cargo planes. Exception has been made as far as that is concerned. We also have train running that is for frieght not for passengers."

He said that port is the nation's heritage even though Nigeria as a country is presently constrained. He said Shippers Council is trying as much as possible to see that ports operate because it is the nerve of the nation's economy even for the citizens to fight the coronavirus.

He added, "We need certain essential commodities and medicine, equipment and so on to move. We have sent circulars trying to see that port operations are kept or the port is moving despite the difficulties. The government has to find a balance between the safety of the people and the economy. Port also generates revenue, which is needed now."

 In order to ensure that there is smooth operations in the port, he said Shippers Council has been transportation right now to some agents and freight forwarders so that they could  come to port and transact business and those who has business to transact at the port.

He said:: "I know that we are operating under some difficult situations, this is global and I know there are certain destructions in international shipping, logistics and so on especially certain contracts that are frustrated by the nature of this pandemic. And we cannot perform some of our obligations and that goes to both parties.

"We have also been talking with the commercial banks. Some of them have also opened immediately two branches in Apapa (Zenith Bank) to transact the business of assessment of duty and payment of duty, which they will start tomorrow, we are talking with other banks and they will do the same."

Also speaking at the visit to the ENL Terminal at the Apapa port, Vice Chairman of ENL Consortium, Princess Vicky Haastrup lamented that the terminal is already full to the brim with 85 per cent yard space already occupied.

She attributed this to the fact that freight forwarders and importers were not coming forward to take delivery of their consignments.

She noted that at the moment, five vessels are waiting at berth, ready to discharge their contents. "The freight forwarders are not coming  because some of them have Customs problems. I have 5 ships at the berth but the terminal is full. We are ready to operate but the people are not coming," she said Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Ports and Terminal Multiservices Limited, Ascanio Russo said the company has bee operational and intend to continue to be operational inline with the directives issued by Mr President. He said that, "I'm very glad that the federal government is a critical infrastructure, which need to be open all the time especially in a difficult times like this. There is no where in the world even the most affected countries ports and critical logistics service were never closed. "So, am also very happy to hear and appreciate the Council for the role taken to facilitate access to the ports and also for the banks to come on  so that we can facilitate the payment of duties and this are very critical steps because on our own side, we are ready to work." According to him, there is need to acknowledge the whole world is working around the Logistics services not only Shipping agents, Maufacturers or dockworkers but all the service providers including security, cleaners, drivers and they should be allowed to come to the port area.