GSA moves to mitigate challenges of shippers

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Ms Benonita Bismarck —Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GPHA
Ms Benonita Bismarck —Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GPHA

Efforts by the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) to help reduce cost of shipping at the twin ports have started yielding results.

This followed recent announcements by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) that it will henceforth, discontinue the charging of rent on goods that are not cleared after the allowable seven-day free period as a result of the paperless initiative.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GSA, Ms Benonita Bismarck, who confirmed this to the Graphic Business, added that the Shipowners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG) has also expressed readiness to take on the issue of demurrage on a case by case basis.

She spoke to the paper on the sidelines of a sensitisation forum organised by the GSA in Accra.

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“As you may be aware, the mandate of the authority is to promote and protect the interest of shippers. Therefore, what we are doing presently is to provide a platform for all stakeholders to be sensitised to the paperless policy,” she said.

Payment of demurrage and rent has been a thorny issue for many shippers in the country and is said to have contributed to the high cost of imported goods, excessive loss of revenue and inefficiencies at the port.

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Last year, for example, shippers paid an estimated amount of US$100 million as container demurrage and rent to shipping lines and the GPHA.

Frequent system breakdown, delays from service providers, bureaucratic operational procedures and unreliable clearing agents are some but major causes of the container demurrage at the port.

Statistics indicate that over 80 per cent of consignees are unable to clear their cargos at the ports within the seven days allowable time, resulting in container demurrage.

Engaging with stakeholders

Ms Bismarck said the strategy adopted by the GSA was to help reduce financial implications incurred by shippers as a result of the paperless initiative by the government.

“What we are doing as an authority is to engage all stakeholders operating at the ports such as GPHA, Customs, GCNet, and shipping lines to mitigate the challenges incurred as a result of the paperless,” she said.

She stated that most new programmes were often associated with challenges but sharing information would help address the challenges associated with it.

She advised shippers to report their challenges with the paperless to the relevant agencies or the authority for a redress.

Help sustain paperless

The President of Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Barima Ofori Ameyaw, underscored that reporting the challenges emanating as a result of the paperless system to the various agencies was crucial for the sustainability of the programme.

He stated that the paperless system would help the business community to approach the government to reduce tariffs in order for people to voluntarily comply.

“The paperless system is going to help the country increase its revenue generated from the ports and this will help shippers to ask for reduction in duties paid to the government,” he said.

Barima Ameyaw urged various stakeholders to ensure the system operates smoothly in order to reduce human interface which contributes to the high cost of imported goods, excessive loss of revenue and inefficiencies.

“If we are able to make this paperless system work effectively, the onus is on us to go to the government to demand tariff adjustment on goods imported into the country so that at the end of the day the businessman will get some kind of respite,” he stated.

Adhere to rules of engagement

He called on shippers to also adhere to the rules of engagement in the import and export trade business to make the paperless initiative work effectively as a section in the new system clearly spells out sanctions for any importer or agent who under-declares.

A clearing agent was last week arrested by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in Tema for under-declaring the goods cleared at the port.

The report has it that a clearing agent who had declared some items that attracted a lower rate of duty (five per cent), but when the consignment were opened it was found to contain mobile phones and about 50 other items that would have attracted about GH¢60,000.

Barima Ameyaw said inasmuch as the government would like to create a platform to enable shippers to clear their goods on time, people should not take advantage to cheat the system. — GB