Regulatory agencies working at Ghana’s ports are being encouraged to strengthen collaborations at the country’s ports in order to ensure optimum care in the dealings with dangerous and/or hazardous cargo.
Speaking on Eye on Port, the Port Fire and Safety Manager, Edward Heyman and the General Manager, Estate and Environment, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, James Benjamin Gaisie both emphasized how stronger collaborations will plug some of the gaps associated with the handling of dangerous cargo in and out of the country’s ports.
“The major stakeholders, Customs, GPHA and statutory agencies in the port, Food and Drugs Authority, EPA, etc, should collaborate to make sure that we educate consignees to know what they are supposed to do because many of them may not know,” Mr. Gaisie stressed.
“There is the need for stronger coordination among all of us. Everybody, including ourselves, GPHA and Customs should make sure we do not contribute to any delays,” Mr. Heyman added.
Thee environment and safety experts of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority highlighted the significance of drawing lessons from the disastrous explosion at the Beirut Port in Lebanon.
“The port plays a very major role in any nation’s economy. Once life and property is destroyed like the Beirut Port, you cannot operate and it will affect any nation drastically,” Mr. Gaisie expressed.
Mr. Heyman corroborated that “The Lebanon incident should serve as an alert for all ports in the handling of dangerous goods. With the incident in China as well, it started from one container and at the end it spread all over the entire port.”
The incident at Beirut Port, on the 4th of August is believed to have begun from an initial fire around a Warehouse in the port, which ignited about 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate in the warehouse causing a colossal explosion that travelled as far as 5 miles away from the port.
Many properties in the city were destroyed and over 300,000 people misplaced and 5,000 injured with about 200 people confirmed dead.
The Tema Port Fire and Safety Manager, Edward Heyman, disclosed that the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority is very keen on the handling of hazardous and dangerous cargo and ensures effective escort and direct delivery of such goods after handling.
“Ideally, it has to stay a day or two, we have what the Fire Department does which is monitoring or fire cover where we deploy our fire engines and men to supervise and monitor it till it leaves the port,” he added.
However, there was the general concession that some delays have been emerging from failed declaration of such goods or delays from getting permits through other regulatory agencies who play key roles in the clearance of such dangerous cargo.
“It goes through the Ministries and other agencies. The Interior Minister would have to give you a permit to import these goods into the country and you would also need a permit to clear it out of the port. So if it is going past the normal period of clearance, it means it has become a security issue,” he elaborated.
The General Manager in charge of Estate and Environment further called for reduced interruptions by security agencies in the port space on hazardous cargo where possible, so that these goods will be transported quickly from the port area.
“We will pray that such interference in ceasing such cargoes do not happen in the port. Because if these cargoes are ceased it goes beyond the reach of the Port Authority since we cannot take decision on them. But if it’s in normal storage, then the Port Safety Manager has control over it,” he proposed.
Edward Heyman, the Port Fire and Safety Manager, charged shipping lines to be very clear in the declaration and description of hazardous goods to guide his outfit in the best ways of handling them. He lamented that failed declaration of such goods can have very dire consequences.
“The shipping lines should ensure that they come out with clear declarations. They shouldn’t hide anything. It becomes more difficult when they hide it. If we know that you’re having this particular cargo, then the right procedure to handle dangerous goods is followed,” he urged.
Touching on cases of unlabelled cargo, Mr. Gaisie appealed that laws could be formulated to ensure that unless such cargoes are properly declared, they aren’t offloaded from ships.
“If a container lands in your port and it is not properly labelled or described, it should go back on the vessel to where it came from. That’s the best practice,” he said.
The Fire and Safety Manager at the Tema Port also urged stakeholders in the port space, to take sensitization exercises done by his outfit and the Regional Maritime University very seriously so that all port personnel are well equipped in how to collectively deal with hazards during any such possible incidents.