About seven associations in the shipping business will from Monday, August 27, 2018 shut down their operations at the country’s ports in protest against the implementation of the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) system.
The associations are the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Association of Custom House Agents of Ghana (ACHAG), Freight Forwarders Association of Ghana, and the Custom Brokers Association of Ghana (CUBAG).
The rest are the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana (IEAG) and the Food and Beverages Association of Ghana.
The three-day protest is to force the government to suspend the new system before its policy of Complete Compliance takes off on September 1, 2018.
Per the policy of Complete Compliance, vessels will not load containers without CTN numbers at the port of loading.
The CTN, which took effect July 1, 2018, was introduced by the government to track all imports to Ghana to reduce revenue losses associated with under declaration of goods at the ports, but the associations in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic on Sunday, August 26, 2018 maintained that the system, which was implemented with minimal stakeholder consultation, will defeat the government’s purpose for implementation and rather lead to a duplication of systems already in place at the ports.
The President of the GIFF, Mr Kwabena Ofosu Appiah, said the intended protest could only be withheld if the government suspended the CTN for further consultations with stakeholders in the industry.
He indicated that the strike would transcend the borders of the country: Kotoka International Airport, Tema and Takoradi ports, Elubo and Paga and there would be no declarations and payments of duties.
Mr Appiah added that several pieces of advice, calls and petitions to the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and other stakeholders to reconsider the CTN had yielded no result.
For his part, the President of GUTA, Dr Joseph Obeng, also said its members were fully behind today’s protest against the implementation of the CTN, but should the government go ahead with full implementation of the system, the business community, led by GUTA, “will communicate to the authorities in the language they understand.”
Some measures, he said, would consist of asking its members not to ship any goods into the country from September this year in protest against the system.
“We will advise all importers to halt shipment into the country from September 1, 2018 until all issues on the CTN are resolved with the government,” he said.
Dr. Joseph Obeng, President, GUTA
According to him, since the introduction of the CTN,its implementation had had a lot of controversies.
He explained that members of the trading community had gone a step further to petition the Economic Management Team headed by the Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia, and it was suspended in February 2018.
A few weeks after the suspension, however, he said that same policy was reintroduced without taking into account the petition presented on the concerns of the business community.
Trading community’s position
The Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association, Mr Samson Asaki Awingobet, said the trading community had made its position clear that it would not allow the policy to be imposed on its members without due regard or consideration of their input.
“Now, full implementation of the policy is just a week away, yet we have not had any response from the government to our grievances.
Mr. Samson Asaki Awingobet, Executive Secretary, Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana
“While we are waiting for a positive response and ready for constructive engagement within the period, we would like to declare our full support and total endorsement for the withdrawal of service from today, Monday, August 27, 2018,” Mr Awingobet said.
The freight fraternity made up of about 800 corporate entities in a joint statement dated August 24, 2018, for instance, have asked several questions demanding answers from the government on the implementation plan of the system.
Some of the questions include why letters from the Presidency announcing a postponement of the CTN dated February 16, 2018 and May 28, had been ignored by the GRA and it rather started piloting it from July 1.
They also wondered why GRA had not connected the CTN system to existing platforms such as GCNet and indicated that all the national trade data would be in the hands of the operators who could manipulate it.
“There are powerful individuals behind this. All they care about is making money, whether there is value or not,” they indicated.
They argued that although the government maintained that freight forwarders would not be charged for the use of the CTN platform, the piloting had shown that shipping lines had been charging CTN between US$100 and US$200 before the issuance of the code.
They also mentioned that the Custom Division of GRA and GCNet had indicated that they were under no obligation to accept the information on the invoices from the CTN and may have to do their own validating.
The freight forwarders further said all the information to be provided on the CTN was already on the manifest, therefore, there was no need to set another platform to do what was already in place.