Namibia: COVID-19 Disrupts Cargo Volume Growth

Border closures and export bans are playing havoc with ports and transport corridors and disrupting cargo volumes due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Although all ports of entry in Namibia have been closed for passengers and crews, cargo is still landing with workers adhering to strict safety measures introduced by Namport, prompted by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Walvis Bay Corridor Group CEO Hippy Tjivikua yesterday said the free flow of trade has been affected at entry points due to screening processes.

"We must be honest that this caught everyone off guard. The delays have been experienced. Ports have been operational only for essential services. We need to know that some goods are sensitive and can't be delayed. They can expire and we advocate that these goods are loaded as soon as possible," Tjiviuka noted.

He said cargo volumes have been growing for several years, but due to Covid-19, there has been serious disruption as cargo volumes have taken a nose-dive.

Tjivikua could, however, not quantify the losses in terms of cargo volumes, saying it is too early to determine and quantify the cost. According to Tjivikua, the initial screening of the drivers is done by officials from the ministry of health before the truck crosses any of the country's borders.

Once the driver is in the country, he is supported by the wellness clinics that are equipped to identify Covid-19 symptoms.

If an infection is suspected, the driver will be isolated and referred to the ministry, which will put him in quarantine

Tjivikua said it is not only the truck drivers who are being screened. Screening and surveillance points are operational at all cross-border posts around the country to screen everyone who enters Namibia.

He revealed six wellness clinics are serving all the major transport routes through Namibia, helping authorities to prevent truck drivers from spreading the Covid-19 virus.

Kalahari Transport Corridor Secretariat executive director Lesile Mpofu observed that traffic was slower than normal and it was to be expected, given Covid-19 screening measures to which truck drivers and transport operators were exposed.

"This situation is new. It's unprecedented. We don't have experience in it. It brought difficulties in the economy in terms of trade. Looking at the situation on corridors, trade has gone down. We are in an abnormal situation. Most shops have been closed in Namibia, South Africa and Botswana. This has called for traders to order what is needed by the market. As such, cargo volumes have done down," he remarked.

Mpofu explained due to factories that closed, exports and imports have gone down, which means orders of goods and services have been affected between regions.

He is, however, thankful that shelves are not empty, as shops still have the basic goods and essential services that customers need.

Although Mpofu said he is not aware of any insurance-related claim by transport cargo operators due to Covid-19, insurance companies might increase premiums that could disadvantage operators.

He observed that there were instances of delays in the flow of goods and services at roadblocks because some immigration and police officers did not know which are essential goods.

"The drivers spend many days on the roads and fatigue comes in. We also have challenges to get qualified drivers to drive trade," Mpofu noted.

Works and transport deputy executive director Jonas Sheelongo said the ministry has guidelines in place to guide drivers and operators at all entry points.

However, he said they understand that as much as the intention is to have smooth movement, there will be challenges.

He thanked those drivers and operators who sacrifice their lives to ensure Namibia has essential goods and services.

Sheelongo could not provide the number of truckers who have or are still under quarantine at entry points but urged everyone to adhere to the lockdown regulations.

- anakale@nepc.com.na

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