PMAWCA’S CHAIRMAN GIVES HIS OPINION ON COVID.19 AND IMPACTS ON THE PORT ACTIVITIESPMAWCA Admin
For an interview session, the PMAWCA Secretariat Publicity unit would like to ask you a few questions regarding the crisis caused by the ongoing Covid.19 Pandemic.
1. PMWACA Sec.-Public.Unit: IMO identified with the Covid-19 pandemic from the 11th of March 2020, this emergency has caused the closure of land and air boarders between different countries. In your capacity as the Managing Director of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority , what is your opinion on this health crisis?
PMAWCA Chairman: The spread of the Covid-19 has placed the entire world in an unprecedented situation. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified the spread of the virus as pandemic and requested governments of individual member countries to put in place adequate measures to contain the spread to ensure public health, safety, and security. It is well understandable to feel overwhelmed by the health and economic challenges posed by covid19. But we must focus on those things we can control. Preparedness is a critical factor in determining the likelihood our business will remain afloat. It is imperative that you put a plan in plan
As at the end of April 2020, the virus has affected over 199 countries world-wide infesting more than 3.5 million people and over 249,000 deaths reported. This is a major public health issue of global proportion that the world has had to deal with. We hope the scientists will soon find a vaccine or cure to deal with the disease.
Covid19 is real. Therefore, all port authorities, terminal operators, shipping lines, freight forwarders and all port operators/users in West and Central Africa are entreated to put in place adequate measures to slow the spread of the virus. Port users and operators must observe the prescribed Covid-19 protocols as spelt out by the World Health Organisation and other national authorities.
There remain several uncertainties regarding the pandemic and its impacts. For instance, will Africa become the next epicenter? Will there be a second wave? When will it end? While experts do not agree on the answers to these questions and several others, one thing that is clear is that the Covid-19 pandemic will change the world and the way societies live and interact. It will usher in a new normal in the way we live, interact and do business. We must prepare for the change ahead.
2. PMWACA Sec.-Public.Unit: What measures has the GPHA put in place to deal with the effect of this scourge on port activities
PMAWCA Chairman: The spread of Covid-19 has had a perilous impact on economies and societies of the world. The developed economies of United States of America, United Kingdom, France, China, etc. are all struggling to contain the spread of the virus. Travel is being curtailed and borders are being closed to contain and limit the spread of the infection. This has affected the operation of transport hubs. In some instance ships were denied entry to ports.
However, in these difficult moments, the ability for shipping services and seafarers to deliver essential goods, including medical supplies and foodstuffs will be critical to responding to, and eventually overcoming, the pandemic. It is, therefore, crucially important that the flow of commerce by sea which accounts for about 90% of the world’s trade should not be unnecessarily disrupted. At the same time, the safety of life and protection of the marine environment must also remain paramount.
The following are the main highlights of measures put in place by GPHA
- Establishment of Inter-Agency Task Force comprising GPHA, Port Health, Ghana Immigration Service, National Security, Customs, Ghana Navy, Terminals and other Port Operators to undertake plan and coordinate the implementation of various Covid-19 response programmes. This include door-to door sensitization for all stakeholders in the port on how to manage and prevent the spread of the virus.
- Provided logistics and other support to medical staff of the Port Health Services, the Navy and GPHA own hospital to access ships at anchorage and screen crew members and/or take samples from victims of suspected cases of covid19.
- Developed a comprehensive Covid-19 emergency guidelines for shipping lines, Customs House Agents and Other Port users.
- Positioned hand washing facilities and hand sanitizers at strategic locations within the port area for port users to observe strict hand hygiene practices.
- During Partial lockdown of Accra and Kumasi as per the directives issued by the President of the Republic of Ghana, the ports of Ghana were still opened for business to ensure the continuous flow of essentials and non-essential goods in and out of the country.
- Issuance of Covid-19 permits to port users as a proof of permit to work at the port during the period of lockdown.
- Provided adequate Personal Protective Equipment PPEs for Dockers and other staff working at the waterfront.
- Granted additional rent free storage period to shippers who could not clear their consignments during the three weeks’ lock down period.
3. PMWACA Sec.-Public.Unit: Please Chairman, can you let us know if this crisis has had any impact on the Port of Bata Port activities?
- If yes, what areas are most affected?
- If no, what are the reasons?
PMAWCA Chairman: GPHA has not been immune to the economic disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Towards the end of March 2020, the clearance of goods from the port slowed down significantly. Importers declined to come forward to clear their cargoes from the ports notwithstanding the adequate intervention measures put in place by GPHA. It was clear that shippers placed more value on public health and safety more than their business. And they were right! This resulted into accumulation of demurrage and storage charges on the cargoes.
Our prognosis indicates that the impact of the pandemic on the port business be severe and long term. There severity and duration will depend on the segment of the port business. Generally, the demand for port business is derived from the volume of international trade in merchandise. This means that as global economy slumps the volume of traffic shipped through the ports will decline. With the collapse of the price of crude oil the offshore oil and gas business which involves exploration and production has taken a major blow. The traffic of supply vessels servicing the offshore oil and gas companies has also witnessed a major decline. The decline in traffic volume will translate into the financial performance of the port operators.
4. PMWACA Sec.-Public.Unit: With his current situation considered a ‘’force majeure’’, what facilities have you given to ship-owners, private operators and shippers to successfully carry out their operations?
PMAWCA Chairman: Covid-19 took everyone by surprise. GPHA has had to revise the cargo traffic and financial revenue in view of the uncertainties surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important therefore that all port operators take a second look at their business projection for 2020 and going forward into the future.
There are a number of request from the shipping lines for reduction in port charges which GPHA is considering. The rule of the thumb here is to “Maintain Good Behaviour”, have frank and open conversation with all stakeholders and try to find middle ground, so the perilous burden imposed by Covid-19 can be shared justly.
- Ship Owners, Shipping Lines and Agents
GPHA has made adequate provision to handle ships calling the ports 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to work cargo. With the Convid-19 permit, truckers, ship agents and other stakeholders were allowed to conduct their regular business in and around the port. The business continuity plans of GPHA ensured that chartered vessels escaped from paying demurrage resulting from delays at the port.
Shippers whose cargoes could not be cleared from the port during the period of partial lockdown in Ghana were exempted from paying storage charges on their cargoes until the lock down was eased. GPHA also encouraged Shipping Lines to exempt shippers from paying demurrage on cargoes at least for the period of the lockdown.
- Cancellation of International meetings and PMAWCA meetings.
This is considered as a step in the right direction. Because the virus is transmitted from human to human it is imperative that large gathering of people at one place is banned around the globe. The traditional Technical Committee meetings of the Association will have to be suspended until the pandemic is over. Critical Board of Governance meetings can be arranged and organized on line using available video conferencing technologies.
- Business continuity plans to make the GPHA’s platform more dynamic.
Countries all over the world were compelled to lockdowns following the outbreak of the pandemic. Businesses were shuttered and the entire logistics supply chains were disrupted due to boarder closures and travel restrictions imposed by various governments.
GPHA has put together the following business continuity plans to assist in weathering the impact of covid19.
- Key non-operation staff to work from home and provide on-line support when necessary.
- Other non-operational staff to stay home and observe the partial lockdown in accordance with government directives
- Operational staff to stay home and report to work only when required to perform operational duties. All these measures were intended to ensure that employees are safe.
- Continuous supply of logistics and PPEs to operational staff.
- Enforcement of social distancing rules
- Encourage customers to use digital payment platform to pay for services.
6. PMWACA Sec.-Public.Unit: Traffic and mostly Importation will certainly reduce if this crisis persists, so what continuity plans do you have in place to make your port platform more dynamic?
PMAWCA Chairman: Certainly every member port of PMAWCA will feel the impact of Covid-19. We expect traffic to slow down due to slump in demand for goods, and hence port traffic.
Member ports must ensure their ports are continuing to operate for trade to flow. We have the responsibility to ensure the availability of shipping services to the commerce of the world, for the benefit of humanity.
Also adequate measures should be put in place to ensure safety and security of employees and observance of all covid19 protocol.
Thanks so much Chairman for your precious time.