New trade facilitation company starts work in January- But operators fear disruptions

BY: Daily Graphic
Mr Alan Kyeremanten — Minister of Trade and Industry
Mr Alan Kyeremanten — Minister of Trade and Industry

Clearing and export of goods through the country’s seaport can suffer greatly from January 1, 2019, when the existing Single Window system jointly operated by GCNet and Customs World Dubai (West Blue) is unplugged for a new system to be installed.

Ghana Link Network Services Limited which has been awarded a 10-year contract by the government and its overseas partners, KUPIA Korea Customs Services, will be operating the trade facilitation and customs management system known as UNIPASS at the ports.

However, there are concerns at the port that with a few days for the January take-off of the new system, there are no signs that the company is ready for commencement of business.

Stakeholders, according to sources, have also not been properly briefed about the deal.

Another major challenge is the training of Customs officials on how to operate the new system; training for stakeholders to understand how the new system works; and the errors that come with operating such a new system before it reaches it smooth operating level after years.

Higher charges

The takeover of single window operations from Customs World (WestBlue Consulting) and GCNet will cost taxpayers more money, the Daily Graphic has learnt.

Ghana Link with its overseas partners, CUPIA Korea Customs Service, will provide the trade facilitation and Customs Management System at a 0.75 per cent fee (FOB) per their 10-year sole sourced contract with the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

This means that Ghanaian importers will be paying about US$180 million at the end of their 10-year contract with Ghana based on the current import volumes.

Meanwhile, South Korea's customs agency has, in a recent publication, stated that the 10-year deal it had signed with Ghana to deploy its single window system at the country’s port cost US$40 million.

Some industry players fear  the figure is on the higher side compared to what the existing vendors, West Blue and GCNet, are receiving as fee.

West Blue Consulting with its overseas partner, Customs World Dubai, currently earn 0.28 per cent, while GCNet earns 0.4 per cent.

 The two existing vendors providing single window operations in Ghana together are taking 0.68 per cent which is far below  the 0.75 per cent  UNIPASS will earn.

West Blue, GCNet Systems

GCNet and West Blue Consulting,  with its overseas partner, Customs World Dubai,  are providing fully integrated trade facilitation and customs management system at the ports.

It incorporates all the modules that UNIPASS  will deploy at the ports.

The systems of the two companies have been fine-tuned and hundreds of hours spent training stakeholders on how to use them.

There are concerns that  unplugging of the current single window will derail gains made under the Paperless Port programme of which the existing platform plays an important role.

Another challenge is the loss of revenue as the existing system has played a key role in increasing the government’s revenue generation  at the ports by blocking leakages and ensuring that all revenues are accounted for, a source close to the paperless port operations said.