Effective today, Monday March 1, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) will begin the implementation of new tariff for services rendered to shipping lines at the seaports.
The new tariff regime applies to containerised cargo for port dues, stevedoring, cranage and terminal handling (empty container).
They are to increase on an average of 15.74 per cent for 20-footer container and 16.81 per cent for 40-footer container.
Targeting only shipping lines, the tariff adjustment, the GPHA explains, is to help generate more revenue to settle loans secured to build the Terminal Three of the Tema Port and other port infrastructure.
However, the trading community, led by the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) and Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), have petitioned the government, through the Ministry of Transport (MoT), to suspend the proposed review immediately for further consultations.
Their bone of contention is that most of the shipping lines have already mooted a plan to pass on the tariff to their clients (the trading public), by increasing their local fees and charges between 70 per cent and 110 per cent.
The General Manager in charge of Marketing and Corporate Affairs at GPHA, Mrs Esther Gyebi-Donkor, told the Daily Graphic last Friday in Tema, that the Authority was ready to implement the new tariff today.
“With effect from Monday March 1, the GPHA has reviewed a few tariff items for its vessel handling on containerised cargo and it is targeting shipping lines and not importers or exporters directly,” she said.
She explained that a new tariff at this period was crucial to help the Port Authority to recover some of the investments it had made with regard to the construction of Terminal Three.
“Implementation of the additional upward revision of the port tariff was supposed to have taken off in October 2020, but because of the public outcry, it was shelved.”
“We are aware that the world, including Ghana, is facing the COVID-19 pandemic at the moment, but whatever facilities needed to improve business activities at the ports are still being provided and so, we need this tariff review to be implemented to recover the investments and prepare for the future when the equipment installed deteriorate,” she added.
An Executive Member of the Shipowners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), Mr Adam Imoru Ayarna, explained that depending on their cost structure, the shipping lines would pass on liner charges imposed by GPHA or a port authority as a freight or a local charge.
“The representing agents of the shipping lines in Ghana do not have a say Once their principal owners direct them on how to apply the tariff, they go by that directive and so they can decide to apply it as freight or charge it locally, it is the prerogative of the shipping line owners to decide where to implement it,” he said.
Before the shipping lines will introduce a new fee, Mr Ayarna stated that they had the responsibility to inform the market within a specific time frame and that was what they were currently doing under the circumstances.
“As I said, agents here don’t have control, it is their principals that do and they are going to direct them to charge so much and that is what the agents will do,” he added.
But the President of GUTA, Dr Joseph Obeng, said the trading public disagreed entirely with the introduction of the tariff at the moment, and had subsequently written to the MoT to direct GPHA to suspend it for a stakeholders consultation.
He said a consultation among stakeholders was needed to prevail on the shipping lines operators not to pass on the tariff as a local charge but rather as an ocean freight charge.
As a freight charge, he explained that traders would be able to negotiate for a reduction or shop for the best rate in the market while local charges were not negotiable.
“Because activities of the shipping lines are not regulated, they can apply this new tariff on both local and freight charges and no one will notice. So, we also want to use this stakeholder consultation to chart a new path on how Ghana can empower a local firm such as the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) to regulate activities of the shipping lines that operate at its seaports. It is only in this country that the fees and charges of the shipping lines are not checked,” he said.
Due to an increase in freight rates, owing to the impact of the pandemic, Dr Obeng stated that prices of goods in the local market had already escalated and an addition through the new tariff would make it worse.
“We know we are dealing with a listening government and so this issue will be dealt with within the shortest possible time,” he added.