Following public reactions to attempts by the Nigerian Ports Authority to get full details of COVID-19 cases said to have been found on a vessel, the Authority wishes to make the following clarifications:
1. The NPA, by its tweet on Thursday March 26, did not contradict the information released to the public by the National Centre for Disease Control. (NCDC). What the tweet sought (repeated below) to do was get full details of incident for purposes of record and better management in the future.
“Hello @NCDC. In respect to the 6 new cases that “were detected on a vessel” in Lagos, the Authority in collaboration with Port Health has not recorded any confirmed cases to date.
To enable verification and proper record keeping, kindly avail us with specific details on the name of the Vessel the passengers were on board, and the Terminal or Jetty where they berthed.”
2. The NPA needed the clarification to reassure its stakeholders who raised concern over the announcement that six cases were found on a vessel when they as shipping companies, terminal operators, jetty operators did not witness any such passengers through their respective COVID-19 protocol.
3. The NPA and Ports Health Services have set clear protocols on the identification of sick people on vessels and the management of suspected and confirmed cases in line with best practices set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
The protocol is that: i. The Captain of any vessel with a sick person(s) on board must fly two yellow flags.
ii. This done, personnel of the Port Health Services will go into the vessel at berth, inspect it and in cases where there is a person on board, they will quarantine the ship and immediately escalate to the Lagos State Ministry of Health.
iii. The Ministry of Health will send an epidemiologist who will go on board with Port Health, take samples from the suspected sick person and then report to the NCDC.
4. The NCDC has now clarified that these cases were discovered on an Oil Rig, Siem Marlin on the High Sea, offshore Lagos and accessed by the Lagos State Government and the NCDC by Helicopter. Maritime stakeholders would not have been so apprehensive if it was clear that the passengers were on a rig.
5. This clarification has renewed the confidence of stakeholders in the effectiveness of the processes put in place, which remains. the principal objective of the Authority.
6. Given the fact that the maritime industry is central to the management of the pandemic worldwide, the Nigerian Ports Authority is committed to working with all other agencies of government to ensure the safety of all Nigerians.