The Vice President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Mr. Johnny Mantey, called on shipping companies operating in Ghana to adhere to the principles of Legislative Instrument 2190 in their charges and practices.
The Ghana Shippers Authority Regulations 2012 (LI 2190) is the legal framework that obliges the GSA to regulate all charges and other matters related to the maritime sector.
Mr. Mantey was speaking to the media about issues of unfair treatment raised by freight forwarders, importers and exporters against shipping companies.
He said that while the various institutions of Ghana’s shipping industry use their tariffs for control and regulation by the Ghana Shippers Authority, the shipping lines, on the other hand, have failed to adhere to the regulations.
He said, for example, that the additional port charges that have caused much controversy were unjustifiable, saying that these charges, among others imposed by shipping companies, should be integrated into the transport costs.
He also deplored certain administrative practices of the shipping companies operating in the country, pointing out that if he unloaded a container on Saturday and could not return the empty crate to the shipping companies because they did not work on weekends even if the division of Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) customs operates throughout, you will still be charged.
“Today you can pay your customs duties at 02:00, 04:00, but you cannot do it with the shipping companies, at 14:00 their gates are closed,” he said, adding that “yet, they charge for demurrage on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, what wrong have we done as Ghanaians?”
Mr. Akwasi Serebour Boateng, executive member of the Customs Agents Association of Ghana (ACHAG), said on his part that shipping companies aim to profit from the delays caused in the clearance chain.
Mr. Boateng pointed out that there was an incentive to delay the clearance system because according to him, “if you are in the position where the longer you delay me, you make more money, why don’t you delay me?
He reiterated that it should be possible for them to release or drop off an empty box over the weekend, saying “if I have a cashier release from my manager, what else does the shipping company here have- does she still need, they have all the clearing agents registered in their system, but all these bureaucracies are there for them to make money from the system”.
He also expressed concern about the inability of shipping companies to apply the standard Bank of Ghana exchange rates for business compared to other players in the clearance chain.
“As we speak the Bank of Ghana exchange rate is around 5.9 but the shipping lines use 6.5 per dollar there is no one to speak for us so you pay or you you keep quiet,” he said.
Nana Fredua Agyemang Ofori-Atta, Executive Secretary of the Committee of the Freight Forwarders Association (CoFFA), said it was regrettable that all the combined efforts of Ghana’s maritime trade stakeholders to create a cost efficient port and of time could be seriously compromised by the actions of shipping companies.
Nana Ofori-Atta said that while freight forwarders and other stakeholders try to cut out anything that would increase their costs in the clearance process, shipping companies, on the other hand, have no incentive to tow the same line because they earn money when they slow down the process.
He therefore urged the Ghana Shippers Authority to do its best to assist shippers, while advising shipping companies to stop undue delays and other additional costs to contribute effectively to the country’s port efficiency project.