18 August 2014

Liberia: I. Coast Somersaults, Lifts Blockade On Ebola-Hit Liberia, S.l

Photo: Air Ivoire
The Ivorian airliner Air Ivoire.

Monrovia — The Ivorian government appears to have had a change of heart with the lifting of suspension of ships from regional neighbors affected by the deadly Ebola virus, from docking at its port, FrontPageAfrica has learned.

In a circular note to ship owners, consignees and insurers of vessels, port authorities, obtained by FPA,

Mr. E. Kanga, Director of the Port of Abidjan writes:

To: All Shipping Lines, Brokers And Shipping Insurance Companies

This Is To Inform Shipping Lines, Brokers And Shipping Insurers That The Measures Previously Announced And Which Banned Ships From Ebola Infested Countries To Dock In Abidjan Are Hereby Lifted.

Therefore, Any Ship Which Meets The Usual Contractual Agreement May Dock In Abidjan If They Wish To Do So.

Furthermore, Health Safety Measures To Be Taken Regarding Ships Coming From The Above Mentionned Countries Will Be Communicated At A Later Date.

The Decision Is Effective Immediately And Rescind The Previous Decision Referenced As 0265/Dgpaa/Doms/Ds/Ss/Tfc


E. Kanga

Managing Director Of The Port Of Abidjan

Last week, the Ivorian port authorities sent out a similar circular to ship owners signaling a blockade beginning August 12, 2014, advising that beginning August 12, 2014, "NO VESSEL arriving from one of the contaminated countries is allowed to call in Abidjan until further notice.

The circular also recommend for other vessels that any illness occurring on-board with Ebola-like symptoms should immediately be reported, regardless of where that vessel is arriving from." Shipping associations have been advised that the Port of Abidjan in Ivory Coast has made a decision not to allow entry to any vessel that arrives from a country which is experiencing an outbreak of Ebola.

The circular added that vessels that give concern to the Port Authorities may be subjected to up to 21 days of quarantine, which period is a usual incubation time for the virus, dealing a major blow to shipping lines like Maersk who could face difficulties going to Liberia with the mandate because Ivory Coast is a key transshipment point. This could also affect aid agencies bringing in relief supplies to aid the Ebola-hit nation.

The lifting of the blockade would come as a relief for Liberia and the World Health Organization which expressed disappointment last week over departures of airlines from Ebola-hit Liberia and Sierra Leone. "WHO is disappointed when airlines stop flying to West Africa," the UN health agency said in a tweet last Thursday. "Hard to save lives if we and other health workers cannot get in."

The WHO has labeled the situation an international health emergency in the wake of massive exodus of multinational businesses has been on the increase, much to the displeasure of health governing body.

Liberia in particular has been hit economically in the past few weeks after several airlines across the world had stopped flights to Ebola-endemic countries across West Africa. Asky airlines, the airline that airlifted Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American who took the virus to Nigeria, had earlier cancelled flights to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Arik, Emirates and British Airways have also cancelled flights to the three countries. Only SN Brussels and Royal Air Maroc are still flying Liberia skies.

Kenya's national carrier, Kenya Airways (KQ) which had previously resisted pressure to stop flying to the Ebola-hit, announced last week that it too was bolting out although it had previously said that WHO had not advised it against continuing flights.

Lawmakers in the Kenyan parliament accused the airline of 'putting profit before people', as KQ's 36 destinations in Africa include 10 West African cities where it flies 44 times per week.

WHO has made it clear that Ebola is not airborne, unlike influenza and tuberculosis. The organization has stressed that

At least 1,975 cases of the Ebola virus infection have so far been recorded, 1069 of which have died.

Liberia has the highest death toll from Ebola to date, with 413 succumbing to the virus. At least 1,145 people across West Africa have died so far since the outbreak began in February.

This was compounded last weekend when at least 20 patients believed to be suffering from Ebola fled a quarantine clinic in the disease-ridden West Point after protesters reportedly broke down the doors and looted the building, sparking fears of a serious health risk.

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