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Let’s commit to new charges for freight forwarders — Shippers Authority CEO

BY: Maclean Kwofi
The GSA and freight forwarders have agreed on new freight forwarding and clearing agents charges for the next two years

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GSA, Benonita Bismarck, is asking freight forwarders and clearing agents to help create a congenial business environment.

The GSA recently negotiated the charges of some shipping service providers such as freight forwarders and clearing agents.

The new rates were supposed to be negotiated every two years but due to various developments in the port fraternity, the 2018 negotiations were abandoned until 2022.

The situation gave freight forwarders and clearing agents the free will to charge or price above the agreed rates for the last six years.

“We have gone through a tough time to get to these rates, which as we agreed, is commensurate with the services you render to importers and exporters.

“What we hope for is that your members will not charge more than this but feel free to charge less per the relationship you have with your customers,” she said.

New rates

After nearly six years without uniform charges, the GSA and freight forwarders aiding importers to clear goods at the country’s point of entry finally agreed on new freight forwarding and clearing agents’ charges for the next two years.

The new rates, which took effect January 1, 2023, affect activities at Ghana’s two seaports (Tema and Takoradi ports), Kotoka International Airport (KIA), as well as Aflao and Elubo borders.

The rates were reached after six months of negotiations and extensive deliberation between the GSA and the Committee of Freight Forwarder Associations (CoFFA) representing the forwarders and clearing agents.

During the negotiation, the proposed individual line items and justifications were thoroughly examined by the GSA to ensure that the levels of the charges were commensurate with the service being provided.

The negotiated rates seek to guide importers and exporters to plan their operations. It is also to check the cost of doing business in Ghana and ensure price predictability.

It is in accordance with the Ghana Shippers' Authority Regulation, 2012, (L.1.2190) which mandates the authority to negotiate charges of shipping service providers on behalf of shippers (importers and exporters).

Negotiations

The GSA negotiates freight and port charges on behalf of shippers that operate in the country’s shipping space.

For instance, it teams up annually with the Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC) and the shipping lines ferrying Ghana's cocoa exports to the international market to negotiate freight rates and other conditions for Ghana’s cocoa.

These negotiations have always resulted in huge savings for the country in terms of the cost of freight for cocoa. In 2013, the savings that accrued to Ghana as a result of the negotiations amounted to $9 million.

Gratitude

The Vice-President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Peter Mensah, expressed gratitude to the GSA for the openness and fairness at all levels of negotiation.

He promised that forwarders would comply with the agreed rates with the good faith that characterised the negotiations.

“It is for the good of not only the sector but the nation at large. A better economy would translate into profits. We would like to offer our customers the chance to also recognise the professionalism we bring to the table.

“We also want to use this to check our members and caution the public to be wary of the activities of fake forwarders,” the Vice-President added.

Mandate

The GSA was established to effectively manage the demand side of Ghana’s shipping industry with a view to protecting the interests of Ghanaian shippers in relation to port, ship, inland transportation and other ancillary problems.

Its mandate is also to ensure quick, safe, reliable and cost-effective delivery of cargo for shippers (importers and exporters) in the country.

Since it was set up nearly five decades ago, the authority has worked closely with other stakeholders in the shipping industry to protect and promote the interests of Ghanaian shippers.

It also ensured the provision of relevant logistics for the growth of shipping and trade.

Way forward

To sustain the negotiated rates and further enhance trade facilitation, there is a need for all stakeholders to commit and abide by the new charges.

The GSA should collaborate with the freight forwarders fraternity and shippers to consolidate the gains made so far.

The challenges and problems that delayed the negotiation for six years should receive serious attention from all actors to make the policy more effective.

It is time for the government to take keen steps to review the Ghana Shipper's Authority Act to empower the authority to come out with realistic fees and charges for shipping service providers.

This will help check the cost of doing business in Ghana and ensure price predictability and guide importers and exporters to plan their operations.