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Business News of Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Source: Business 24

Freight forwarders want government action on ‘nuisance’ charges

The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) wants the Ministry of Transport to set up a committee to look into what it describes as arbitrary fees and charges in the shipping business that could stifle the sector.

The worrisome fees and charges include administrative or container release fee, container cleaning and detention fee, demurrage, and interest charges on delayed payment of duties. GIFF is also concerned about the mode of calculation of state warehouse rent by Customs.

“That’s one very sour point in our business right now, and one thing we are going to do this year is to push for these fees and charges to be regulated,” said Eddy Akrong, president of the institute.

“If we are not careful, it’s going to go haywire and that’s not good for the business. We want to attract business to our ports and we don’t want these fees to pose a hindrance,” he added in an exclusive interview with Business24.

Apart from the freight rate, which is the cost of transporting the cargo, there are other fees and charges associated with shipping.

After paying the freight cost, an importer is charged an administrative fee or container release fee for the processes leading up to the release of the consignment by the shipping line.

There is also a container cleaning fee, a container detention fee—which is a form of surety for the safe return of an empty container to the shipping line—and demurrage on containers that overstay at the port.

Also, if an importer fails to clear his goods within one week, Customs charges interest on the duties applicable.

The GIFF boss argued that most of these costs, especially those charged by the shipping lines, are not commensurate with the service that is rendered, hence the call for some form of regulation by the transport ministry.

“Weekends and public holidays are not counted as part of demurrage-free days even though they [shipping lines] do not work on those days. Also, why do I [an importer] have to pay about GH¢250 for cleaning an empty container or GH¢2,000 for my container to be released to me,” the GIFF boss said.

“If you look at the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) that we are a signatory to, all fees and charges should be commensurate with the service provided,” Mr. Akrong further argued.

On the interest charged on duties and calculation of warehouse rent, Mr. Akrong admitted that it was a matter of law and that his outfit intends to take it up with the Commissioner of Customs for subsequent action.

“Mind you this [duty] is not a loan; it’s money that the importer is supposed to pay to government. We need to cut cost so that business can be attractive, and interest charge is one interesting area to look at.”

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