Stakeholders acclaim paperless port clearance system

BY: Maclean Kwofi
 Ms Benonita Bismarck, CEO, Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA)
Ms Benonita Bismarck, CEO, Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA)

The paperless port clearance system has received endorsement from stakeholders in the shipping business, one year into its operation at the Tema and the Takoradi ports.

At a forum on the system in Accra last Wednesday, importers and exporters, freight forwarders, shipping lines and their agents, customs officials, port and shipping authorities said the paperless system had eliminated the various challenges that were impeding clearance and raising cost of operation.

They, therefore, pledged to work together to improve on the system by integrating the platforms of all stakeholders to help smoothen the rough ends.

The forum which was on the theme: ‘1-Year of paperless port system: Review of achievements, challenges and way forward,’ was organised by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA).

A former President of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Dr  Tony Oteng-Gyasi, who was also the chairperson for the event, lauded efforts by all stakeholders who ensured that the paperless initiative worked effectively at the ports for the past one year.

He said his company’s (Tropical Cable & Conductor Ltd) assessment had shown a considerable improvement in doing business at the ports with the advent of the paperless clearance system.
 
But he underscored the need for the system to be reviewed in order to further improve it.

Integrate systems

The Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Mr Michael Luguje, said an assessment by the GPHA had shown the need for the creation of a robust structure that would encourage key agencies to integrate their systems in order for the ports to have 100 per cent paperless operations.

Towards that end, he said the GPHA had begun discussions with the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) for the two institutions to integrate their systems.

“For instance, the GPHA is upgrading its information technology infrastructure to ensure that its systems are strengthened enough to ensure fast progression on the paperless when the integration is done,” he said.

Reforms

In a speech read on his behalf, the Commissioner of Customs, Mr Isaac Crentsil, said since the introduction of the system in September 2017, the government had introduced several reforms to help better it.

Notable among the reforms, he said, was the reduction of the inspection agencies at the ports from 16 to three entities.

Ideals of paperless are achievable

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GSA, Ms Benonita Bismarck, explained that  the forum was organised to bring stakeholders in the shipping industry together to undertake a comprehensive review of the system after its first year of implementation.

“While commendable achievements are visible, the paperless system, one year after its implementation, cannot be said to be 100 per cent, as there are still requests for additional documents in hard copy,” she said.

In that regard, she indicated that the ideals of the paperless system were achievable because the necessary institutional structures had already been firmly established.

But she added that more collaborations among industry players were needed to encourage the system to work effectively.

Other stakeholders

Lauding the initiative, the President of the Association of Customs House Agents Ghana (ACHAG), Mr Yaw Kyei, asked freight forwarders to help the system progress rather than developing a means to sway it.

The First Vice-President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Mr Patrick Osei-Brogya, scored the initiative 63 per cent for easing business transactions at the ports.
 
He, however, said there was room for improvement.

The Vice-President of the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), Mr Adam Imoru Ayarna, said through the introduction of the paperless system shipping lines were now able to submit their manifest five days prior to vessel arrival at the ports.

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