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Business News of Thursday, 24 January 2013

Source: Daily Guide

Shippers contend with fake clearing documents

The Ghana Shippers’ Authority says the use of fictitious documents by shippers for clearing goods at the country’s ports poses several challenges.

There have been reports on the rampant submission of fake documents by some importers or their agents to the destination inspection companies and officials of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority.

Records at the Shippers’ Authority show that averagely about 70 percent of invoices submitted by importers to inspection companies turn out to be false.

Sylvia Asana Dawda Owu, Head of Shipper Services at the Ghana Shippers Authority, who briefed CITY & BUSINESS GUIDE on the situation at Tema yesterday, said the development results in unnecessary delays in the clearing of cargoes, which also contributes to congestion at the ports.

She explained that when detected, shippers are compelled to start the entire clearance procedure and in most cases end up paying more in terms of rent and demurrage charges, which otherwise could have been avoided.

“It is our expectation that shippers clear their cargo in good time to avoid paying unnecessary charges but the situation where fictitious documents are tendered by shippers end up defeating the purpose of fast clearance.”

She also mentioned that some shippers depend on the services of wayside clearing agents, popularly known as ‘goro boys.’

“Several cases of this nature have been brought before the authority,” said Ms Owu, who explained that the ‘goro’ boys deceive the shippers in order to enjoy reduced duty charges.

She cautioned shippers to use recognized agents, adding that “some of the shippers use the ‘goro’ boys because they do not know there is even an association of freight forwarders. We will streamline procedures in the industry to take care of these wayside agents.”

The Ghana Shippers Authority indicated that this year it would focus more on small-scale importers and exporters as part of efforts to facilitate trade.

But one of its major challenges is its inability to get small-scale players in the shipping industry who often encounter difficulties in their operation to attend seminars and other educational programmes aimed at regularly updating their knowledge.

“Our main aim is to educate shippers however getting the small-scale players to sensitize them about the do’s and don’ts of the industry has been difficult,” Ms Owu said in an interview at her office.

Small-scale players in the industry include spare part dealers, importers of electrical appliances and confectioneries from Dubai, China, Hong Kong and other places as well as exporters of mango, pineapple and sheabutter, among others.

The Shippers’ Authority recorded an increase in cargo traffic in 2012 showing an improvement over previous years.

Statistics indicated that cargo throughput for the year 2012 was 19.7 million tones, representing 10 percent increase over the previous year’s figure of 18 million tones.

“Our observation has been that during election year, exporters and importers adopt a wait and see attitude which could lead to a possible reduction in cargo throughput but this time round the situation was different,” stated Ms Owu.

In her view, the year 2013 would be challenging but fulfilling.

“We will continue our mandate of promoting and protecting the interest of shippers in Ghana.

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