From right: Executive Secretary/CEO, the Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello presents the Nigerian Port Process Manual booklet to the Director, Port Health Services, Dr. Geoffrey Okatubo, during the visit to the PHS office in Abuja, recently.

In line with its ongoing stakeholders’ engagement, collaboration and sensitisation on the implementation Nigerian Port Process Manual NPPM, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council NSC, has made strong case for the relevant agencies to reduce the length of time and number of officers involved in the inspection of vessels and crew that call at the nation’s seaports.

The Port Health Services, a unit under the Federal Ministry of Health is the first agency to inspect vessels and crew on arrival at the nation’s seaports to ensure that the crew complied with all necessary regulations and requirements to berth at any of the nation’s harbours.

This is with a view to enhancing ease of doing business at the ports and reduce incidences of corruption by so doing, which has negatively affected the global rating of the nation’s seaports.

Recall that the Federal Government had last year, officially launched the NPPM as part of efforts to reduce bottlenecks at the port industry in order to boost the country’s Corruption Perception Index CPI. The government had also appointed the NSC as the lead agency on its implementation.

Executive Secretary/CEO of the Council, Hassan Bello, who spoke during a recent courtesy visit to the Port Health Services, Abuja, emphasied the need to clean up the ports by embracing orderliness, efficiency and zero tolerance on corruption at the ports.

He stated that since doing business at the ports is tied to time, there is need for the Port Health Services officials as the first agency to interact with vessels and crew, to reduce the time spent onboard, by performing their inspection within 30 – 45 minutes with a maximum of officers.

He described the NPPM as a useful and important manual that all relevant agencies in the port system should abide by.

“The turnaround time for ships can also be reduced through a pre-arrival communication between the vessels and the PHS, so that every activity performed on arrival of vessels on Nigeria’s shores would be for verification alone.

“One area of concern that breeds corrupt practices at the ports is vessel agents offering transportation to inspection agencies. This, should be provided by the Nigerian government or agencies, the PHS in this instance”, Bello also said.

While encouraging the PHS to reach out to the NSC with any issue, Mr. Bello suggested that the PHS publish infractions committed by vessels that call at the nation’s seaports.

Responding, the Director, Port Health Services, Dr. Geoffrey Okatubo, congratulated the NSC on its appointment by the Federal Government as the lead agency to coordinate and supervise the implementation of the NPPM.

Regarding the 30 – 45 -minute vessel inspection, he stated that as long as there is no issue with a ship, it is achievable. However, he explained that inspections can take longer than 45 minutes because of the peculiarities of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given rise to more activities on board vessels.

These, according to him, include checking the temperature and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), COVID-19 test results of the entire crew.

He further stated that due to the emergence of the new strain of the virus, special attention needs to be given to vessels arriving from Brazil, South Africa and India.

He added that the PHS was working towards publishing penalties for infractions and is also solidly behind the Council, in the performance of its roles and responsibilities.