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Business News of Thursday, 18 November 2021


Auction cargoes early to decongest ports-GPHA to customs

Director of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Micheal Luguje Director of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Micheal Luguje

Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbor Authority (GPHA), Michael Luguje, has admonished the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to prioritize auctioning cargoes that have overstayed their stipulated time at the ports to avoid congestion.

According to him, some importers oftentimes do not have funds readily available to clear their goods once they arrive at the ports, sometimes up to a year, a situation he describes as hampering the activities of operators at the ports.

“When this happens, the goods go into what is termed demurrage; whereby some more time is given for the importer to clear their goods at a higher fee. However, when the importer is unable to meet requirements after the stipulated period, then it is the Customs Division's duty to auction the cargoes at a lower rate," he said.

He however mentioned the maximum duration of keeping cargoes at the ports, after which the cargoes become state property.

“Customs has a certain number of days during which you should have paid duty to take delivery of your cargo; beyond that, it goes into government custody. It goes into what we call a state warehouse, and once it goes into a state warehouse Customs sets about two to three more weeks immediately after the 60 days period; so that you can still come to see them and will give you an opportunity to clear your cargo. Beyond that, then the cargo will remain in Customs custody and become the government's property. Customs will then have to auction it and then whatever revenue they get out of it goes into government's coffers; but usually, you won't get as much as you would have if the importer had come to pay and clear,” he explained.

Mr. Luguje, however, lamented the slow pace with which customs perform the auctioning of cargoes that fall into this category.

He disclosed that a committee has been set up to look into the delay of the auctioning of the cargoes; adding that they should not stay at the ports up to a year or more.

“There is a joint committee set to look into this, and that is the Ports Authority, Customs, and Shippers ‘Authority. We are looking at this whole Uncleared Cargo List (UCL) issue alongside what is stuck in the ports and what can be done to get them quickly auctioned so that the containers can be returned to their owners. There is a lot of discussion going on, and we ate just hoping that this brings a lasting solution,” he noted.

Mr. Luguje was speaking to the B&FT on the sideline of the 7th Governing Council Members of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) investiture in Accra over the weekend.

He called for proper structuring of the customs division of the GRA to enhance procedures at the ports especially in the auctioning of cargoes that are due for auction.

“We feel if Customs has the mandate to auction, it should be a well- structured regime wherein maybe every three months there is auctioning; no matter how small the cargo is, auction it and free the ports - because when it piles up it becomes difficult and creates a problem for all of us,” he said.

"On the issue of unfair charges by shipping lines at the ports, complaints have been on shipping lines introducing a lot of local charges, and the issue 1s that it is also quite a liberalized environment; it is not regulated. If it was regulated properly, then you would look at what kind of charges they are charging, how do they justify them; for what service are they charging the various fees? - and then some negotiations for us come in, but right now we don't have that kind of position,” he reiterated.

Mr. Luguje indicated that his outfit is aware of the situation; however, very little can be done since systems at the ports are liberalized.

“The Shippers’ Authority is doing its best, I think now they are planning to revise their law and acquire more power to at least be able to deal with this kind of situation,” he added.