Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority News
Last week, on the Eye on Port live interactive platform on national television, Fred Asiedu Dartey, Head of Freights and Logistics at the Ghana Shippers’ Authority and Eddy Akrong, a Council Member of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders outlined some challenges in doing business with shipping lines.
These included, firstly, shipping lines assuming the autonomy to peg their own exchange rates.
Secondly, shipping lines failing to work on weekends even though Ghana’s Port operates 24 hours and 7 days yet the Shipping Lines charge demurrage which includes weekends. Thirdly, Eddy Akrong criticised the current system where Shipping Lines only release cargo after customs compliance has been done.
These according to the two, is making it expensive for importers to clear their cargoes and adding to the increasing cost of doing business.
Eye on port has for the past two weeks, through its live panel discussion been looking at the role of shipping lines in the ease of doing business at the Ports of Ghana. 24/7 Port
This week, on the same platform, Frank Ebow Brown, Legal, Licensing and Permits Manager at Meridian Ports Services, expressed that since the port terminal opens 24 hours of everyday of the week, it will be in the best interest of the port business chain, if shipping lines open on weekends saying it will align all port processes and bring ease to importers.
“We believe that it would be a good thing to align all working times, so that all parties are able to work together,” he said.
He however added, “but they are private entities and look at the profitability. But I am clear in my mind that when there is a lot of business they will find it profitable to work 24/7.”
Frank Ebow Brown also entreated importers or their clearing agents to take advantage of the 24/7 service available at the Tema Port, so that there is decongestion of the peak periods of 10am – 8pm on weekdays.
He said importers can take advantage of the truck appointment systems available to enable the timely retrieval of cargoes from the cargo terminals.
Decoupling customs compliance
Eddy Akrong, a council member of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, maintained however that, if shipping line release is decoupled from customs compliance there would be quicker clearance of cargo, and work on weekends would be more enticing for clearing agents because shipping line release would have been done separately from customs compliance.
“Like I said emphatically, if we decouple this, if I have my bill of laden today and I walk to the shipping line, I could get my release while I am doing my compliance. When compliance is done, I start work at any time. Because all of the processes we do on the cargo clearance system, is something I can do on my bed at night or Sunday morning. When that is done, that issue of work not starting early would be resolved,” he explained.
He said it is the desire of the every clearing agent to get goods cleared on time.
“My business is hinged on me getting the goods to the customer, so I can get paid. Why would I want to stay at home, and decide I do not want to work early?”
He said when shipping line release is untied from customs compliance which causes delay, cost incurred in terms of demurrage accrued on cargoes would be reduced.
Interest on Refunds
Eddy Akrong also reiterated the issue of the issuing of refunds made on deposits after containers have been used by importers, which according to him is not timely, and consequently has an adverse effect on importers whose monies may lock up in the deposits. He proposed that, shipping lines, when unable to refund swiftly, should apply interests like they do for demurrage when importers do not return containers on time.
“There should be an interest situation, where the money I left with you should be accruing some interests because the money is in your account.”
Regulatory Structure
On the charges of the shipping lines, he called for regulation in the form of a governance structure that would make sure unjustifiable charges imposed by shipping lines are eliminated.
“If there is no regulation then that is a recipe for chaos because somebody can jump to any figure that he wants. And what is worse is, once you have used that line, you are stuck with them. There has to be a certain supremo who would look down and regulate the whole spectrum. GRA has a role to play. GMA also has its role to play,” he articulated.
He disclosed that some shipping lines pre-charge a cleaning fee, to take care of unclean containers used by importers. He called for refunds of the cleaning fee on the containers which are returned in good condition.
Dialogue the way forward?
However, Adam Imoru Ayarna, Executive Member of the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana, maintained that policies guiding these charges are agreed upon by importers, so there is nothing illegal with its existence.
He said the shipping lines value the inputs of their customers, so importers or their representatives, who are the clearing agents, should commit to dialoguing with shipping lines to resolve some of these issues.
“We are here to resolve issues, so what we should do is contact the agents to address these issues as business people in the same industry. At the end of the day the customs house agent is acting in the interest of the customer who has an agreement with the shipping line. It is upon the shipping line to abide by that agreement,” he expressed.
According to Imoru Ayarna, this is far better than a call for a regulatory body interfering with the business relations of shipping lines and importers.
“I am worried why, a service provider’s dealings with its customers would be regulated,” he said.
Addressing the fact that shipping lines apply varying exchange rates, and whether they have to reconcile their rates with that of the Bank of Ghana, Mr. Imoru Ayarna questioned the illegality of the act.
He continued by insisting that if there is not any illegality, then dialogue should be the way to come to a favourable resolution.
“Mr. Ebow Brown also explained the benefits Ghana could derive from the deepened and widened sea port, which would allow Ghana be the first port of call for cargoes destined for the country.  He said unlike before where bigger vessels which could not be accommodated at Ghana’s port would offload into smaller vessels at other West-African ports before calling our ports, Ghana has the necessary port space and equipment to handle bigger vessels which would save the country both time and money.
“Those 5000 TEU vessels could not come to Tema fully laden so they would have to go to neighbouring ports like Lome or Abidjan to lighten up. This means your cargo would have to be delivered somewhere else on the West coast of Africa. Thankfully we are now able to take the largest container vessels,” he asserted.

The Regional Secretary of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, Nana Poku, has called on the President of Ghana, whose auspices the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre is under, to come out and support the charge of GUTA to stop illegal foreign retailers from operating in Ghana.
“GIPC is linked to the presidency. I will use this medium to call on the president to tell the populace whether he is for foreigners or he is for Ghanaians who voted him to power to serve us.” 
The Regional Secretary of GUTA speaking on Eye on Port, live on national television, re-echoed his organisation’s resolve to ensure that the laws protecting local retailers are abided by, and foreigners illegally indulging in retail business discontinue their activities.
“The laws are explicit. It is telling Ghanaians that, that place or area is reserved for Ghanaians,” he stressed on. 
He debunked all speculations suggesting that the Ministry of Trade is championing their drive to drive to push foreign retailers away. 
Nana Poku emphasized that his organisation is currently focused on educating the foreign retail traders on Ghanaian laws to allow them make their decisions to abandon the trade peacefully. 
“What we are doing right now is educating the foreign retailers with the laws of Ghana for them to leave the market peacefully. If they resist there are so many ways to handle the situation to save the name Ghana through non-violent means,” he said.
He said the foreign traders aside creating undue competition also sell inferior products which is at the detriment of the Ghanaian consuming public. 
“I have evidence whereby instead of hospital supplies being given to Ghanaian companies it is being offered to Nigerian companies who are actually supplying these hospitals with fake products. I was present when we seized fake disinfectants and other products,” he revealed.
Earlier, the unionized groups of the Ghana Union of Traders Association, and the Ghana Electrical Dealers Association (GEDA), served a one-week ultimatum to the retail community of foreigners selling without permit in the Ghanaian market to vacate the country’s trading space, else they would be met with aggression.

The caution which was characterised with agitations according to the unionized groups follows an accumulated level of insubordination by foreign retailers in Ghana to the country’s laws which do not give room for non-citizens to do retail business in the Ghanaian market without permit.
“All these things we have been going up and down with the government over, it has come to nothing. At the moment what we are saying is that if the government cannot implement the GIPC Law 865 we the traders will implement the law for them,” Samuel Addo, PRO of GEDA said.Section 27(1) of Act 865 of the GIPC Law generally lays out activities that foreign investors are not permitted to invest or participate in including the sale of goods or provision of services in a market, petty trading or hawking or selling of goods in a stall at any place. 
“That law has stated the category of businesses that are supposed to be done by us Ghanaians whereby foreigners cannot do those businesses. At the moment it is surprising that these same jobs are being taken by foreigners,” he lamented. 
He accused these foreigners of trading in substandard products at low prices making it difficult for Ghanaians who trade in quality products to thrive.
“Foreigners have taken over the shops by bargaining for higher rates. They bring cheaper goods into the system to sell and they do not pay VAT or any other tax to the government,” he added.
The Public Relations Officer of the Ghana Electrical Dealers Association, Samuel Addo, cautioned the foreigners engaged in illegal retail business should stop doing business or they will be forced to abandon their trade. 
“We have given them the ultimatum to close their shops and leave our markets,” he warned. 

Ghana’s leading oil marketing company, GOIL, continues to demonstrate its patriotism to the social development of the country and has as a result donated 1,000 hospital beds to the Ministry of Health for onward distribution across public hospitals in the country.
Handing over the beds, the CEO and Group MD of GOIL, Kwame Osei Prempeh revealed that the donation which includes delivery beds, children beds and normal hospital beds all fitted with durable mattresses, is intended to alleviate the “no-bed syndrome” in Ghanaian public hospitals. 
“They will help to ease the conditions at the various public hospitals and help reduce patients sleeping on the floor of some of the hospitals and also to help kill the phenomenon of no beds.” 
He revealed that in 2017, a similar donation was made to the Ministry of Health, as well as many other significant contributions to the health sector. 
“Our support to health institutions in particular have been crucial of GOIL’s Corporate Social Responsibility. GOIL was for instance a major contributor to the building of Baby and Child Centre at the Okomfo Anokye Teaching Hospital spearheaded by the First Lady, Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo and which was inaugurated last year,” he stated. 
Receiving the beds on behalf of the country, a Deputy Minister of Health, Tina Gifty Naa Ayeley Mensah asked other corporate entities to emulate the generosity of GOIL to contribute to the development of health care in Ghana.
“They should also come to our aid because they all have Social Responsibilities and these are some of the things that when you do, citizens or your clients get something from what they give out to your various companies. We are also urging philanthropists to also come to our aid,” she appealed. 
She urged the public to patronize GOIL products as the indigenous oil marketing company would channel some of its profits into such laudable activities which benefits all Ghanaians.

President Nana Akufo-Addo has revealed that construction of the Keta Fish landing site will commence in December 2019.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Volta Regional Minister, Dr. Archibald Letsa at this year's Hogbetsotso festival of the people of Anlo, the president said the month of November, 2019 will be used for community engagement with the people of Anlo ahead of the construction works. 
The president added that government is working assiduously in meeting the desire of the people of Anlo in getting a fishing harbour and a port and therefore revealed that the Director of Keta Port, Dr. Alexander Adusei is leading ongoing processes for the construction of the Keta port. 
“The Hon. Minister for Transport was not too long ago in Keta concerning the construction of the Keta Fish Landing Site. In November this year there will be engagement on the project and in December we shall cut the sod for construction to begin,” he revealed.  
The President said the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has given an assurance to carry out some works on the Keta lagoon soon.

Ghana went down by four places to 118 in the latest World Bank ease of doing business ranking. The country dropped from 114 in 2019 to 118 in 2020 for the World Bank flagship publication on the ease of doing business among 190 economies. 
In efforts to access easy and cost effective ways of doing business at Ghana’s Ports, Eye on Port this week engaged experts from major stakeholder agencies in the port trade to access the role of the shipping lines and their impact on cost efficiency and ease of doing business. 
Speaking on Eye on Port live interactive panel discussion, Adam Imoru Ayarna, Executive Member of the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana said the shipping lines play significant roles in the maritime trade by transporting goods from different countries into Ghana but bemoaned the poor time consciousness of the Ghanaian trader and other port facilities.
“What I have seen in Ghana is we are not mindful of our time and that is the beginning of all failures. Over the period there have been chops and changes in the industry which does not really help,” he submitted. 
Varied exchange rates
Fred Asiedu Dartey, Head of Freights and Logistics at the Ghana Shipper’s Authority and Eddy Akrong, Executive Member of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, on their turn complained that shipping lines have assumed the autonomy to peg their own exchange rates making it expensive for importers to clear their cargoes and adding to the increasing cost of doing business. 
“What we found out is that even though the Bank of Ghana has given a certain exchange rate for which government revenue and other charges are been used to apply, the Shipping Lines apply varied rates,” Fred Asiedu Dartey revealed. 
Off Weekends?
The two whose outfits represent the importing public also lamented that shipping lines are failing to work on weekends even though efforts have been put in place to ensure that Ghana’s Port operates 24 hours and 7 days yet the Shipping Lines charge demurrage which includes weekends. 
“Thankfully now we have a port that operates 24/7 and you will find out that Shipping Lines operate 8am to 5pm from Mondays to Fridays so if there are things to be done over the weekend the Shipping Lines offices are closed. However, if the particular consignment had gone on demurrage then the demurrage continues to count including the weekends,” Asiedu Dartey added. 
Adam Imoru Aryana, however, responded that the Shipping Lines as private businesses would have to make a business analysis to find out whether it makes commercial sense to open its offices on weekends. 
“This is private business so if we have to change anything we have to look at the dictates of the business and see whether it makes commercial sense because serving our customers is also very critical,” he stated. 
He revealed that during a pilot programme in 2014/2015 by customs to operate 24/7 Shipping Lines opened on weekends but had a poor patronage. Adam Imoru Aryana suggested that before looking at the issue of working on weekends other players in the clearance chain should prioritise working on time so that there will not be need for weekend overtime. 
“Let us look at the whole chain. What are we doing from 8 am to 11 am? If we can close that gap, there will be no need to work during weekends.” 
Decoupling from customs
Eddy Akrong criticised the current system where Shipping Lines only release cargo after customs compliance has been done and called for decoupling of the two activities.
“When we do a declaration and we pay duties it goes through customs compliance. Until customs compliance is done the Shipping Lines will not release your goods. Why should that be so? I have a contract with the Shipping Line to carry my goods to Ghana so once I come to Ghana and have my bill of lading and I walk to them, they should give me a release. It should not be tied to customs compliance,” he articulated.  
Late refunds
Fred Asiedu Dartey again called on Shipping Lines to make their container deposit refund system transparent and swift to reduce the cost of trading and ease of doing business. 
“You will need to make a deposit before carrying the container out of the port but when the container has been returned the refund mechanism is not straightforward. A lot of the times when you have to pay the deposit you pay it upfront, but when refund has to be made it takes one week or two weeks. That is money locked in there,” he complained. 
His assertion was corroborated by the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders.
But Ayarna admitted to an administration challenge that does not make it possible for Shipping Lines to give out refunds instantly.
“If it is going beyond one week then it is a challenge. It is an administrative challenge that needs to be looked at,” he said.
Avoid demurrage
He emphasized that Shipping Lines are not interested in demurrage but quick turnaround time for their vessels so importers should not entertain accruing demurrage and abide by the terms in their contractual agreements to clear their goods within the stipulated time frame.
“People say Shipping Lines are earning demurrage but that is not what we are in the business for,” he stressed.
Fred Asiedu Dartey said the Ghana Shippers’ Authority has been educating importers to avoid the payment of demurrage as the cost involved in the payment of demurrage are so high. He revealed that Ghanaians paid in excess of USD 96 million in 2016 alone but there have been improvements recently. 
He revealed that a workable relationship is in place between the Ghana Shippers Authority and the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana, to improve the current difficulties. 
“We may not be clothed with the powers as of now to attempt to crack the whip, however, all of the issues of commercial interest that border the shipper who is the ultimate bearer of the burden are the issues we bring to the attention of the shipping lines,” he disclosed.

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