A former national president of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Dr. Eugene Nweke has charged relevant government agencies at the ports to reorder internal cargo traffic as a temporary measure towards curtailing the spread of the Coronavirus, especially amongst freight forwarders.
Nweke who said this in a statement on Tuesday reiterated that the present situation calls for national emergency in port operations.
He maintained that freight forwarders are prone to contact the virus, adding that the system is not structured to soothe his (freight forwarders’) operations.
Nweke stated that freight forwarders are at risk of the deadly coronavirus as majority of them are under serious pressure to deliver their clients’ imports and willing to go the extra mile to achieve that.
He said, as such, a freight forwarder can hardly sit at home, as he cannot transact effectively online, how much more delivering his container online, because the system is skewed against e-commerce.
He explained that, in view of this, Freight Forwarder will always be in the port irrespective of directives, not as though they desire, but because the system is not structured to soothe their operational demands
He said except the ports, customs offices and shipping lines are closed for business, freight forwarders will be under the pressure and mindful not to incur additional or excessive storage and demurrage charges, especially where there is no official pronouncement of operational break or holidays.
The NAGAFF Chieftain informed that majority of freight forwarders (operational staff) seem unperturbed about the COVID -19 pandemic. He said usual handshakes, cracking jokes, crowding at customs desk officers, or offices, or around siting/resting areas, or over the counter (regardless and incautious of body contact) are still the peculiar character and scenarios at various terminals.
He informed that at some ports gates, the only measure put in place by the terminal operators is body temperature checker and hand sanitizers.
According to him “a visit to the ports, shipping companies and bonded terminals yesterday shows a usual port and cargo clearance operations”.
“At some of the Customs operational offices (within the port terminals) visited, many senior officers are seen as taking the initial precautionary measure to protect themselves with mask and a hand sanitizer handy on their tables, as for the junior officers, many seems nonchalant about the Covid -19 spread”.
He urged the concerned agencies to enforce the sit at home (self-isolation) or social distancing as the present scenario suggests, while calling on the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding In Nigeria (CRFFN) to show leadership in this direction, adding that the health and wellness interest of the freight forwarders must be paramount.