Customs officers from Togo, Mali, Niger to pitch camp at Ghana ports

BY: Chris Nunoo
Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia
Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia

Customs officers from some neighbouring West African countries are to be stationed at the ports of Ghana to assist in preventing the diversion of containers meant for other destinations outside the country, the Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has announced.

He said the exercise, which would be undertaken before the end of the year, was a good way for the countries to improve container tracking at the ports and on the road corridors in the West African sub-region.

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The initiative is also to help enhance international trade with Ghana’s trading partners, he said.

The initiative is known as the first port duty rule and Dr Bawumia explained that customs officers from Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali will have a desk at the various ports in Ghana to inspect containers in transit to those countries.

He made this known when he addressed the opening session of the 39th annual Council Meeting of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) in Accra Monday.


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The PMAWCA conference

The four-day PMAWCA conference, which has attracted directors of ports from 15 West and Central African countries, as well as representatives of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other key stakeholders, is the largest gathering of maritime industry players whose membership stretches from Mauritania to Angola.

Dr Bawumia said so much smuggling was taking place through transit trade to neighbouring countries such as Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.

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“Many of the perpetrators falsely declare the destinations and avoid paying duty by using unapproved routes,” he said.

“Not only Ghana loses but our neighbours as well. We are, therefore, in the process of introducing the first port duty rule before the end of the year. With this rule, customs authorities of our neighbouring countries will have a presence at our ports,” the Vice-President stressed.

Axle load

He appealed to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to effectively ensure the enforcement of the implementation of the axle load policy which enjoined countries to limit a six-axle truck to a 60-tonne loading capacity.

He said Ghana, for its part, had consistently complied with and implemented the loading policy since its introduction in 2009.

“The goal is to protect the road infrastructure in our sub-region, but, unfortunately, it has been reported that not all ECOWAS countries are complying with this policy.

“This undermines regional cooperation and creates an atmosphere of unfairness in transit trade on the corridors of the sub- region.

“Ghana is always committed to improving its business practices, particularly its port business and trade relations with its neighbours, including those in landlocked countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger,” Dr Bawumia said.

He said Ghana had thus undertaken a number of trade missions to those countries to strengthen ties and demonstrate its commitment to make its corridors and ports friendly for their patronage.

He pointed out, however, that all those initiatives would not be complete if there was no adherence to the rules and regulations governing their administration.

The acceptance by the government of Ghana and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to host the conference, he said, was ample demonstration of the commitment of the government to improve port operations in the country and the region as a whole.

Policy reforms

Citing Singapore as an example, the Vice-President said ports, if properly managed, would be the engine of growth for many countries, adding, however, that if they were not, ports could be the hot beds for corruption.

He said the reforms, as introduced by the government, were, therefore, to ensure that the ports were managed such that they would become drivers of economic growth and development, instead of hot beds for corruption.

He highlighted some of the measures instituted by the government since last year, saying: “We started the implementation of a paperless process to reduce turnaround time for clearing goods, reduce the cost and bring about efficiency.”

Some of the reforms, subsequent to the paperless system, included a reduction of the number of agencies from 16 to three, he added.

Integration

Dr Bawumia called for the integration of the Information Technology (IT) platforms of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and those of the GPHA.

Port expansion

The Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, lauded the efforts of the PMAWCA and said Africa was attracting a lot of cargo, a situation which called for the expansion of ports in the region.

He mentioned changing trends within the management of ports and advised members and, for that matter, ports in the sub-region to embrace the changes.

The acting Director-General of the GPHA, Mr Michael Luguje, said activities hampering port operations in recent times included piracy and armed robbery and urged the participants to ensure that the discourse at the conference was critical to the transformation of the port sector.