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Truckdrivers sensitize on safe COVID-19 measures

By Bullen Bala Alexander

Border agencies, truck drivers and clearing agents have been educated on how to safely go about their duties while supporting the smooth flow of goods and services across, amid the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to ravage the world.

In a two days’ sensitization workshop held at the Nimule, One Stop Border Post by the South Sudan Shippers Council, was to equip the border agencies, truck drivers and clearing agents with adequate knowledge about the pandemic so as to contribute and support national and regional response towards its management.

While Speaking to the media, the South Sudan Shippers Council Chairman, Yowa Soso mentioned that the negative impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the freight and logistics industry.

He said that the COVID-19 triggered challenges that resulted in the breakdown of supply chains and delays in cargo clearance at the port and border points.

 Soso added that the COVID-19 outbreak led to the emergence of new COVID-19 related Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) that trucker drivers are dealing with; such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which increased the cost of operation due to delays and “unjustified” charges.

“Following the outbreak of the pandemic, freight and logistics players reported major disruptions, which they blamed for runaway costs of doing business due to longer processes for goods verification, as well as testing of truck drivers for Covid-19 at border crossing-points and ports,” he said.

According to the Shippers Council of East Africa (SCEA), transporting cargo from Mombasa to Juba, South Sudan increased from between 9 and 10 days to between 21 and 26 days.

“This pushed up transport costs as truckers had to spend more days on the road before reaching their final destination.” He stated.

This was in addition to stigmatization of truck drivers by members of the public, who accused them for spreading the corona virus.

 According to Soso, all these made business for truck drivers and transporters very hard.

Soso advised that for the trade to continues in a safe manner, the Shippers Council should take part in development of the COVID-19 Standard Operating Protocols (SOPs) for cargo Transporters and Freight Forwarders in the East African region.

He said the SOPs were developed by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), the umbrella body of the clearing agents in the East Africa’s countries of Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, with support from TradeMark East Africa (TMEA).

“The SOPs sought to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among the logistics service providers in the East Africa region by giving general guidelines to cargo transporters and freight forwarders,” he revealed.

He revealed that the measures were targeting cargo road trucking- drivers, crew and transporters; warehousing, Container Freight Station (CFSs), Inland Container Depots (ICD), customs clearance and freight forwarders sector.

According to Mr. Soso, the SOPs will be rolled out through a multi-sectorial holistic approach where all agencies will be assigned roles and responsibilities of implementing them.

“As long this virus exists, these SOPs will be subjected to review to ensure smooth running of businesses along the supply chain,” he said.

Mr. Soso added that the South Sudan Shippers Council will continues to sensitize its members to abide to all SOPs to counter COVID-19.

While Commenting about the recent reports of Ugandan truck drivers being harassed, kidnapped and killed along the Nimule-Juba route, Mr. Soso acknowledged that it is unfortunate as it disrupts the supply chain and works against the country’s economic growth and development.

He further noted that the Government of South Sudan has put in place a security measure to ensure safe passage of goods and people.

“These include putting security checkpoints along the Nimule-Juba road and providing vehicles escorts, among others.”

Meanwhile the Chairman for Regional Lorry Drivers Association, Mr. Byron Kinenesaid that there is need for the Ugandan government to collaborate with its South Sudan counterpart to provide enhanced security along the road to ensure safety of traders who ply the route.

Mr. Kinene said that there have been rampant unregulated roadblocks staged along the highway, especially at Nisitu, near Juba, that are being used by someSouth Sudanese to extort money from traders and also kill others.

 “It is at Nisitu where Ugandan drivers are always ambushed and killed at the same sport and the South Sudan security does not do anything about it. They should beef up security in that area but if they do not have capacity, they should collaborate with the Ugandan government to ensure the safety of traders,” Mr. Kinene said.

“How come Uganda, with advanced security services, deployed in Somalia which is neither our neighbor nor a member of the East African Community? Why can’t it do the same in South Sudan? How many Ugandan’s trades with Somalia?” he questioned.

However, he warned truck drivers against driving alone along the route after 3PM, saying that they should at least move in a convoy to minimize attacks.

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