In line with the newly endorsed protocols by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has designated seafarers and dockworkers as essential workers who should be exempted from travel restrictions.
The exemptions are contained in a new guideline developed and published by the agency to support essential services in Nigeria's shipping sector.
The guideline states that the jobs of dockworkers at the country's seaports, terminals, and jetties are essential to the national economy and, therefore, they should be granted passage between their places of abode and the seaports/terminals and jetties to perform their duties.
NIMASA in the guidelines declared that seafarers are on essential duty and as such exempted from the curfew and travel restrictions, which may hinder necessary movement for crew change.
It directed companies employing the services of seafarers to provide special and dedicated means of transportation to convey the seafarers, adding that such transport system must be disinfected within the recommended minimum hours.
Specifically, the guidelines provided for the mandatory use of facemasks within all terminals and jetties, mandatory temperature check on all staff before access to terminals, and denial of entry to persons who present temperature above 38°C.
Also, it made it mandatory for all employers to develop risk assessments and safety intervention guidelines for all personnel and operations in the areas of vulnerability within their maritime operations that can be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including cargo handling, access control, and rostering procedures.
"Dock labour employers are also to devise methods of ensuring that dockworkers absent from their duties for issues relating to COVlD-19 are quarantined and compensated for the suspension of earnings they suffer as a consequence.
"Furthermore, all dock labour employers are to ensure that buses deployed during the COVID-19 pandemic carry a 50 per cent maximum capacity in line with federal government directives, and all passengers wear facemasks.
"Such buses must have hand sanitisers for all drivers' and passengers' use and be frequently disinfected, "it stated.
In his comments, Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh said the latest advice was meant to contain the pandemic while also supporting the continuation of the economy.
Jamoh stated, "Like President Muhammadu Buhari said, no economy can survive total lockdown. If you look at it critically, maritime is an essential duty, with the major actors being seafarers and dockworkers. This is why we continually come up with guidelines to ease their operations so that activities in our ports will not suffer."