The Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) has added its voice to those of other government agencies to call for caution among stakeholders in the maritime industry in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement that was signed by the CRFFN Registrar; Barrister Samuel Nwakohu, the Council appreciated the efforts of agencies such as: Nigerian Shippers Council, the Nigerian Ports Authourity and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for directing certain categories of their employees to work from home.
Recall that, earlier the three sister agencies had also announced measures to scale down staff presence in their various offices.
The Nigerian Ports Authority had on Monday, ordered the shutdown of its offices across the country for two weeks, in deference to the spread of the deadly Covid-19 in the country.
The NPA shutdown also came barely 24hours after the Nigerian Shippers’ Council announced the shutdown of its offices to contain the spread, allowing only officers on essential service to come to the office
In the NPA memo to its staff, with reference number HQ/CR/AD/G.2, the managing director, Hadiza Bala Usman said officers from non-essential divisions and departments of the authority are advised to stay away from duty and work from home.
On Tuesday, spokesperson of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)’ Mr Isiche Osamgbi told our correspondent that, in line with the directive of the Federal Government, the agency has also directed its staff away from work.
He confirmed that, employees from level 12 down are expected to stay off work for now. “You know we are an essential service organisation, so there will be rotation and shifting”, he explained.
But, the CRFFN in the statement said that it “expresses its solidarity with the Federal Government and the various state governments, especially where freight forwarders operate, in all the efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19)”.
“We are also appreciative of the efforts so far made by sister agencies, especially the NPA, NIMASA and the Nigerian Shippers Council, all of which have announced varying measures to curtail human contact by announcing partial shutdown of operations at their various offices.
We know that these measures will help reduce the potential of COVID -19 ravaging the Nigerian maritime and allied sectors”, the Council added.
In the statement, the CRFFN also thanked freight forwarding associations for assisting to sensitize their members on the need to maintain social distance.
“We also thank freight forwarding associations which have be leading in the efforts to sensitize their members, we urge you to continue with this and spread the message of social distancing”.
The Council, nevertheless counselled freight forwarders on maintain social distance, even as it acknowledges that cargo clearance and delivery process may make social distancing nearly impossible in the ports in Nigeria.
“However, the CRFFN passionately advises our immediate stakeholders; the practicing freight forwarders, corporate and individuals, to be conscious of their safety at this trying period of the spread of the deadly COVID -19”, it said.
The CRFFN however stressed that it is “particularly worried about the exposure of the foot-soldier freight forwarders who must be physically present during examination and delivery of cargoes to their principals; the shipper. We urge caution, and advise that freight forwarders limit their physical contact, and if need be, please avail yourself of the various protective devices, such as hand sanitizers, hand gloves and face masks”.
“We equally urge freight forwarding companies to procure pocket size sanitizers, gloves and masks for their employees”.
“The CRFFN is quite aware that, presently, the cargo clearance and delivery process is still far from what can be completed online, hence we advise caution as we all navigate through this period of COVID-19, which is exposing persons in the supply chain to serious health risk globally”, the statement added.
It however insisted that, “once again, freight forwarders are advised to make use of the electronic platforms where applicable and reduce physical presence to examination and delivery alone”
The Registrar added that, “at the CRFFN, our personnel have been updated about their obligations in line with the directives of the Federal Government, which means that staff from level 12 and below should work from their homes”.
“It is pertinent to stress that there is already a full compliance with the directive, but as a critical stakeholder in the supply chain, the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria, has also directed that only relevant department and personnel should be at work. Our offices nationwide are however opened for enquiries and assistance”, it concluded.