The port authority of Liberia has announced the birthing of about 10 vessels at the Freeport of Monrovia this week.
The announcement comes contrary to speculations that vessels are not birthing at the port of Monrovia including other seaports in the country due to the Ebola outbreak.
The Deputy Managing Director for Administration (DMD/A) of the National Port Authority (NPA), Mr. Nyekeh Forkpa, told a news conference hosted by the Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) in Monrovia, Tuesday, September 2, that the Freeport of Monrovia is in readiness to receive the 10 vessels.
“This is positive news for our economy because businesses are running down on supplies as a result of Ebola,” said a senior government official.
Mr. Forkpa denied reports vessels were refusing to come to Monrovia as a result of the Ebola and declared that vessels have been birthing at the port of Monrovia since the Ebola outbreak. He disclosed that shipping lines and vessel owners have expressed strong confidence in NPA’s ability to enforce stringent Ebola measures put in place by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and to ensure the safety of vessels at the Freeport of Monrovia.
The United Nations (UN) has warned shipping agencies and airlines against restricting operations in the Ebola-affected countries. According to a recent data released by the WHO, over 1,552 people have died from Ebola in West Africa and nearly 3,000 people have been affected by the virus.
On August 30, the port authority said it would deny permission for any crew to disembark from ships at the country’s four seaports until the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa was under control.
Sailors on commercial ships can normally ask for a “shore pass” allowing them to get off the vessel and access the port, but the documents are being withdrawn to curb the spread of the virus, said Liberia’s ports authority.
“For vessels coming in, we have cancelled shore passes. Absolutely no one from on board vessels will be allowed down,” the port management sated.
The country’s four seaports, including the Freeport of Monrovia, have adopted a “zero tolerance” approach.” The Deputy NPA Managing Director, who is also chairman of the port authority’s emergency response team (ERT) on Ebola, insisted the port authority will continue to implement its zero tolerance Ebola measures and advised port users and ship owners to abide by the measures without any problem.
“We don’t pick and choose and we will not compromise our drive to ensure that the Freeport of Monrovia and other port remain zero percent Ebola free,” he said.
NPA’s Ebola Measures
As part of its measures, the NPA Management has reduced and restricted some of its workforce, who have been asked to stay home on paid leave.
The Management requires all employees coming to work to take their temperatures and wash their hands properly at the entry points before entering the port facility. If any employee’s temperature goes about 100 degree Fahrenheit or about 38 degree Celsius, that employee is sent home or requested to do an Ebola test immediately.
The measures require all employees, junior and senior staff to use chlorine bleach hand wash or alcohol-based hand sanitizer upon entering and leaving the port.
All staff on NPA buses are also required to wear long pants and long sleeves shirt or blouse and that routine spraying of all NPA buses takes place prior to the work day and re-sprayed before departure for any other assignment and at the end of the work day.
According to Management, the transport officer and drivers reserve the right to not allow any employee who appears to show symptoms of the Ebola virus on the buses and that NPA’s emergency response team (ERT) setup by Management must be informed immediately of the incident.
In addition to the previous reduction in on site staffing and several other precautionary measures being observed within the facilities of the NPA, Management has called on all port users— employees, shipping agencies, contract agencies, and vendors doing business with the NPA to adhere to the mandatory procedures.
“If a port user shows a temperature of at least 100° F (37.8° C) from screening at the gates, such person will be considered a possible suspect of early Ebola symptoms and will not be allowed into the port without Ministry of Health clearance,” she said.
Vessels Crew Members
The Deputy NPA boss also announced termination of the issuance of shore passes to vessel crew members. “All stevedores or local employees boarding any vessel must be thoroughly screened for Ebola. They will be subjected to preliminary screening upon entry into the port on a daily basis including check on the dock before boarding any vessel,” he added.
In line with said stringent anti-Ebola measures, NPA Management on August 18 temporarily closed the government of Liberia’s ‘one stop’ center at the port of Monrovia.
“We have temporarily closed the one stop shop down because Management didn’t want to take chances. The building is being sprayed by APM Terminals and NPA health team and will be opened on August 19, but not to provide full service to the general public for now,” NPA Managing Director Madam Matilda Parker told a news conference on the closure.
Madam Parker also used the occasion to strongly dismiss speculation that the port authority had closed down. “NPA has not shut down and we have to plans to close either,” she stated.