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Business News of Thursday, 28 February 2019

Source: Lawrence Dogli/Miriam Osei - Agyemang

Ghana’s ports to become the preferred maritime trade hub in Africa

The National Drive to make Ghana’s two seaports activities paperless is positive for the development of the maritime economy as it continues to experience major reforms in its quest to establish greater ease in doing business- enhancing trade facilitation, efficient port services and revenue collection and becoming the preferred trade destination in the sub-Saharan Africa sub-region.

Speaking on the State of Nation Address, Thursday, 21st February 2019, His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwah Akuffo-Addo restated the importance of Ghana’s ports as national assets and government’s commitment to improving trade activities to the benefit of all Ghanaians.

Recounting the introduction of the paperless operations for clearance of goods within a day to three, the initiatives at the country’s sea ports is yielding results to the commendation of importers and stakeholders. The President further articulated the announcement of other reforms to enhance the competitive position of Ghana’s ports and its impact on the cost of living in the country.

Going forward, the President expressed the preparedness of government to put in place initiatives- modernising Ghana’s ports in terms of infrastructure and ICT, to position them as the preferred maritime trade hub of business in West Africa.
With the ports serving as receptacles for cargo and platform for trade, seaports have to reform in order to be able to stand the increasing technology that continues to characterise shipping and port operations (Shipping Review, 2007)

Swift Review

Ghana’s ports have received major reforms in the 18-month incumbency of the Akuffo-Addo government, including the implementation of a paperless clearing system. With latest reports indicating the ease of trading across the country’s border as a result of various infrastructural and technological upgrading, the government is bent on pursuing effective reforms to ensure ease of doing business in the country.

Notwithstanding some bottlenecks in the implementation of the electronic system, it has so far enhanced time and cost of clearance of goods at the port.

The paperless port system, which was a government policy announced by Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumiah in May 2017, took effect from September 1, 2017. Under the system, exporters and importers are required to provide detailed and timely information about their shipment in advance on a global online platform, thus modernising operations to facilitate the movement of legitimate trade and the fast commencement of review processes well in advance in line with international best practices. The policy have offered greater relief to shippers and importers as port processes are now less stressful and less time is spent.

However, a lot more effort is required to make the paperless system more effective, the Secretary of the Import and Export Association of Ghana Sampson Asaki Awingobet, stated in a report that there are still under-declaration and undervaluation in the ports. He added that the goal of clearing goods at the port within four hours is yet to be met.

Also, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders said the system would have recorded 85% percent success had the compliance stage been abolished when the system took off. The institute later registered their displeasure over GRA’s decision to establish and implement the Cargo Tracking Note (CTN) in view of the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement which allows for customs to assess a custom document without a third party getting involved, describing the system as ‘’monumental display of bad faith’’ . But the GRA maintains the policy is imperative to collection of the country’s revenue from imports.

Government plans to review the system to tackle the challenges faced since its implementation, recommend new measures to streamline inspections at the country’s ports and strengthen the task-force in monitory compliance at the port on daily basis.

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