The Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) has directed the management of all sea ports to prevent any ship whose crew are suspected to be infected with COVID-19 from entering the country.
This is part of a raft of directives contained in a circular signed by the GMA’s Deputy Director General (Operations and Technical), Mr Daniel Appianin, and sent to all port facilities on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
The statement, however, cautioned against panic and overreaction which had the tendency to disrupt trade, violate instruments of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and undermine maritime activities.
The circular said the economic cost of the virus was steep and the losses colossal, stressing the need, therefore, to ensure that while protecting lives, commerce was not unduly harmed.
Under the circumstances, it said, “all port facilities are to ensure, where appropriate, that passengers can embark and disembark, cargo operations can take place, ships can enter and leave shipyards for repair and survey, supplies can be loaded and crews exchanged while observing the strictest safety measures”.
It also directed the suspension of services to seafarers for the next two weeks beginning March 16, 2020 while internally, steps were taken to ensure that the seafarers were served without unduly putting staff at risk.
The range of activities suspended by the authority “includes the physical receipt of applications, biometric capturing leading to the issuance of Certificates of Competency, Certificates of Proficiency, Seafarers Identity Document, Seafarers Discharge books as well as Notice of Eligibility Letters among others”.
The circular said the suspension will be reviewed after the two weeks to determine if the situation warrants an amendment.
In the meantime, the authority’s clients have been encouraged to use the online services on the authority’s website.
It said the GMA was acting in concert with the directives of the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the IMO guidelines, as part of measures to contain the virus.
It said the IMO was keen to avoid large scale disruption of trade and supply of essential goods.
The circular asked all port officers to ensure that “certain protocols are observed before they board any ship for inspection because you never know who you are getting into contact with”.