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General News of Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Source: Chronicle

Congestion At Tema Port

The effort made by policy makers to decongest the Tema Port by allowing the construction of container terminals outside the harbour has been rendered useless.

The port, claiming to be the gateway to the sub region is reeling under severe pressure never witnessed before in its existence.

Unconfirmed reports made available to the Chronicle suggested that either a surcharge has been slapped on containers arriving at the port or it is in the making. It is an allegation yet to be proved.

Under the allegation, 20 foot containers for Tema port will attract $200 surcharge while 40-foot containers magnetize $400.

The shipping companies are going to implement this for delays caused to their containers should the surcharge be slapped on the Tema Port.

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) in an attempt to make its ports attractive for sub regional trade, created devanning areas outside the port and allowed private entreprenuers to build and operate container terminals such as the Tema Container Terminal (TCT), ATLAS, SDV and Maersk.

The system introduced a container scanning, apart from being a demand for the Gateway concept, to facilitate fast movement of goods from the harbour and detecting of unmanifested items among others.

The Gateway Services Ltd (GSL) procures the facility and under its department SCANCO, positioned the equipment valued at about ?10 million at the Western gate of the Tema Port. Prior to this, the company on an experimental base performed mobile scanning of containers at the port, around the middle of 2000 and began full operation of the main scanner of the western gate in Febuary 2001, with state of the art equipment.

The gateway concept took off with land-locked countries Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger making use of the port for transit goods. Along the line, the Ivorian crisis cropped up and all goods for the land-locked counties, a greater portion of which had been going through the port at Abidjan were diverted to the Tema port.

Government soon came out to register two more inspection companies namely Ghana Link, Inspection and Control Services and the GSBY becomes BIVAC and have been given geographical allocations.

Information gathered has it that the companies, except GSL, are undertaking 100% physical examination of goods at the port, bringing back congestion.

Interestingly, the GSL scanner with a capacity to scan about 120 containers is now operating below capacity. It now scans between 30 and 40 containers a day at the time the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority releases at least 200 containers a day.

The rest of the containers go to Ghana Link and Inspection and Control Services who are not equipped to undertake scanning. As a result, congestion is witnessed everywhere at the port with heavy equipment movement becoming difficult.

Another aspect is the GPHA's inability to provide container-stacking equipment. Observation by the Chronicle is that pilferage at the port is becoming alarming. Recently, the GPHA had to pay several million cedis when the entire electronic dashboard was stolen.

Under investigation now by the GPHA security is how two empty containers got missing from the Tema port, found their way back and turned into offices by one of the newly registered inspection companies. As confusion rages at the port, people believe that to decongest the place, the new inspection companies must, as a matter of urgency, liaise with the GSL to make use of their scanning facility for a fee.