Paperless transactions yielding results — Minister
The Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, says efforts by the government in ensuring efficiency at the ports through the introduction of the paperless ports system are yielding the desired results.
The minister explained that the introduction of the system had led to a significant reduction in the time and cost of doing business at the country’s seaports as data from the Ghana Community Network Services Limited (GCNet) shows that 43 per cent of containers were presently cleared within 24 hours.
This, however should be a welcoming good news to players in the shipping business since a rise in the average turnaround time of a port undermines its competitiveness and efficiency.
“Currently, data available to the government from the GCNet on the success of the paperless system indicate that 43 per cent of containers are cleared within 24 hours and about 70 per cent of them are cleared within 72 hours,” Mr Asiamah said at the second edition of the Ghana Shippers Awards on June 22, in Accra.
The awards, which is aimed at recognising and awarding players in the country’s maritime and shipping industry, is supported by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA), the Ministry of Transport, the Graphic Business and powered by Globe Productions.
The minister observed that although there had been some drastic transformation in the clearance processes at the ports with the implementation of the paperless port system, government was not oblivious of some of the inherent challenges that confront the system.
“It is for this reason that the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, announced just last week the formation of a task force to review the operations of the paperless port system to improve revenue collection, increase efficiency and control corruption,” he added.
Mr Asiamah stated that the government was committed to ensure that the country achieved a complete automated clearance regime and would not entertain any deliberate acts or collusion on the parts of elements within the process to frustrate its successful implementation.
He noted that in line with the government’s commitment to ensure that the right infrastructure was available to vigorously support the industrialisation agenda of the country, the expansion projects at Tema and Takoradi ports had been given focal attention and work was progressing steadily.
He said it was expected that these infrastructural projects would lead to an improvement in the capacity of the country’s ports and operational efficiency in handling the projected cargo throughputs.
The minister’s views were corroborated by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), Ms Benonita Bismarck, who said the implementation of the paperless regime had contributed immensely to quick clearing of cargo at the country’s ports.
“The recent call by the Vice-President to review operations of the paperless system is a call in the right direction since it is not only targeted at increasing efficiency, improving revenue, and riding the system of illegitimate payments but ultimately helping shippers clear their shipments expeditiously,” she said.
Decline in demurrage
Ms Bismarck observed that the authority, in collaboration with the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, had intensified efforts at educating shippers on how to avoid demurrage in order to further reduce the payment of demurrage this year.
Statistics indicate that payments for demurrage at the Ports of Tema and Takoradi decreased by 17.5 per cent from the US$100 million to US$76 million at the end of 2017.
Again, the CEO noted that in the first quarter of 2018, the authority recorded that a total of about US$15.4 million had been paid as demurrage by shippers; this represents a decline of about 23.5 per cent compared with the total demurrage payment for the same period in 2017.
“It is not in the interest of shipping lines to collect demurrage; their aim is to turn around their containers timeously to grow their business globally,” she said.
Ms Bismarck said that statistics available at the GSA indicated that Ghana’s seaborne trade volume increased by 15.9 per cent in 2017 over the year 2016.
Statistics for the first quarter of 2018 is also indicating an increase of about 28 per cent over the same period in 2017.
The CEO noted that the increase in throughput was attributable to political stability, increased confidence in the economy and the implementation of trade facilitation reforms.
Regulations in the offing
The Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GRA), Mr Kwame Owusu, said his outfit was working on two different legislations, which consist of the Shipping Service providers’ Regulations and the Cabotage Regulations.
“Over the years, the GMA has also worked with the GSA and other maritime and shipping agencies to ensure sustainable development of the maritime industry.
“This collaboration has ensured the introduction of a number of innovations and improvements in the maritime sector,” the DG said.
He added that the shipping industry provided the only cost effective way to transport goods; the global economy today depended on shipping as a prime facilitator with at least 80 per cent of the world trade being carried by ships.