The Chief Executive Officer of the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI), Seth Twum-Akwaboah has commended Kantanka for their substantial growth in the automobile industry in Ghana and encouraged them to increase capacity to capture the entire Ghanaian market and even beyond.
He praised Kantanka’s initial market strategy and also urged them to adopt good financing model for their products by partnering with the banks.
“The current Minister of Finance and the Deputy Speaker of Parliament use their vehicle as well so once they got to that stage and started developing the mass market, that was the right thing, but of course, they have to grow it further and I think one area they need to critically look at is how they can partner financial institutions who will give loan facilities for workers, companies, institutions and individuals who can tap into a kind of resource and buy their vehicles.”
He also urged them to be able to produce at a minimal cost but without compromising quality to ensure sustainability of their products in the market.
“They need to continuously work on efforts to reduce cost as much as possible, if you have a high volume, at a reduced cost, then the cost per unit also reduces, then you become competitive in the market. But never compromise on quality, just because you want to reduce cost, if you do so, people may use it today, but you cannot retain the customers.”
He further advised Kantanka to ensure efficient sustenance of their supply chain by making their parts accessible everywhere and also train house hold mechanics to make repair of their vehicles during breakdowns easier.
“Well stocked parts in different parts of the country in different market centres are very key. And again they need to train local mechanics who can fix these vehicles because for every vehicle, today you may buy it new, tomorrow is old, so definitely, you will need these mechanics to have a supply or value chain system that works.”
The AGI President applauded government for the new Ghana Automotive Manufacturing Development Programme Policy to promote local assemblers and manufacturers of cars.
“It’s basically a general policy to encourage made-in Ghana products, and we have always said that government procurement is key if you want to support local industries and therefore government coming out with the policy that government institutions should give priority to the purchase of locally assembled vehicles, I think it’s a very good policy and it should be encouraged.”
The AGI boss was also quick to advise that government should move beyond procuring the vehicles to ensuring prompt payment in order to keep the assemblers in business.
“We should make deliberate efforts to ensure that if we are buying from the locally assembled plants, then let’s pay promptly”.
He also encouraged government to put in place measures to reduce cost of production including reduction in import taxes and called on government agencies and embassies to help promote export of the Kantanka cars.
“So we have to continuously advocate and government must continuously listen to us, to help reduce cost of production.”
The AGI CEO revealed that Kantanka has an urge in the sub-regional market and the regional market, but advised that they build a buoyant local market first.
“Looks like the local market is catching on, so once you have good grasp of the local market, you can then launch unto the other markets.”
AGI applauded Kantanka for not seeing other assemblers as competitors and urged Ghanaians to develop confidence in their product as well as all made in Ghana products.
The General Manager of Kantanka Automobile, Francis Kojo Kujoji has revealed that the company will in the next few days in the month of August, 2020 unveil its all-new mini-sedan 1.5 cc vehicles called Kantanka Amoanemaa and an electric-powered tricycle popularly called Aboboyaa onto the Ghanaian market.
“Let me take this opportunity to commend the management of Kantanka for the good job they have done over the past years and for bringing this into fruition. They have done a lot of good for themselves from moving beyond trade shows and exhibitions,” the General Manager revealed.
He further asserted that Kantanka is ready to take over the Ghanaian market and are currently producing at a capacity of eight (8) cars per day but can increase their optimum capacity to twelve (12) cars per day in the near future.
Speaking on Eye on Port, the General Manager of Kantanka Automobile said there had been several efforts since the conceptualization stages of the company including writings of petitions to win the support of governments in promoting their indigenous automobile company.
He praised the recently out doored Ghana Automotive Manufacturing Development Programme Policy and revealed that Kantanka has been part of it from the beginning through series of engagements and are therefore optimistic that it will help the company live its dream of producing in large quantities, vehicles that the Ghanaian market will be happy with.
“Once this policy is out, then it means whatever dream that we had ten (10) years ago should be a reality, so I can confidently say that, we are at the dream realization stages of the company and this year, we are going to step out fully,” he assured.
He added that due to the recent government directive for state institutions to purchase locally assembled vehicles, they are currently concentrating on building more pick-ups and preparing to unveil about 150 sedan vehicles called Kantanka Amoanemaa with a market price of about 75,000 Ghana Cedis for such brand new sedans compared to about 120,000 Ghana Cedis of cars of similar specs from different brands in addition to available good payment plans.
“Looking at the directives from government, pick-ups dominate government purchase of vehicles, so the concentration now is on pick-ups and the mini-cars,”
Mr. Kujoji explained. The General Manager also hinted that they do not intend to venture into the production of motorbikes anytime soon but in the interim will concentrate on tricycles popularly called Aboboyaa and have also have built disability friendly vehicles onto the market.
“Looking at the accident rates of motorbikes, we don’t want to Kantanka to be associated with a lot of accidents. Alternatively, we will be doing the tricycles rather. We have actually developed a system where a physically challenged person who is fit with only the hands can drive the car.”
He also asserted that the company currently has 350 employees and does not consider the influx of other assemblers as a threat to their business.
The General Manager of Kantanka Automobile, Francis Kojo Kujoji has confirmed that there is no import duty required to be paid on any vehicle purchased from Kantanka Automobile Company and as part of incentive packages for all their clients, the company assists customers to register their vehicles with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) of Ghana free without charge.
Speaking on Eye on Port, the General Manager of Kantanka Automobile revealed that the company now has a range of vehicles at its disposal which are selling at various show rooms across the country including SUVs and pick-ups in 2 categories, the luxury and the ordinary as well as mini-SUVs called the K71.
Additionally, the General Manager revealed that some 150 sedan vehicles and a mini-sedan model of cars will soon be out doored unto the Ghanaian market.
Francis Kojo Kujoji explained that from the initial stages, Kantanka out of a deliberate marketing strategy decided to produce for the high earned market and institutions such as the Military and top government officials in order to get the high profile endorsement of their vehicles.
“You know Ghanaians, if you start with something small, they will say you can’t go higher, and also we decided to go for a kind of endorsement approach in marketing.”
He said they believed that this made it less difficult when they started scaling down the grade of cars for the mass market which allowed people to recognize Kantanka and associated them with high profile personalities, and from there, decided to scale down their model of cars.
The General Manager of Kantanka Automobile hinted that although Kantanka cars have compatible model parts in the market, they have their own spare parts which they have decided to franchise to other dealers to make them accessible everywhere since they had in the past monopolised the sale of their spare parts.
He said this in an effort to grow their supply chain at every corner of the country to ensure a total capture of the Ghanaian market, even as the country joins the rest of the continent to commence the implementation of the continental free trade area soon.
“The parts of our vehicles are compatible with some of the models we already have in the markets but then we still have some parts available for our own brand of vehicles. We had initially monopolised the parts but now, what’s going to happen is that, we will give franchise to part dealers in Abosey-Okai and, Suame magazine etc.”
Mr. Francis Kujoji revealed that it has been their hope to reduce the cost of their cars but the vehicle components that are imported from Asia are quite expensive although the recent Ghana Automotive Manufacturing Development Programme Policy has ensured significant reduction in import duty to about 25%.
“We want to do cars and come out with models that will cost like, 10,000, 12,000, and 9,000 Ghana cedis but we cannot because the components are expensive. If you put even the batteries and the tyres together, it’s over 7,000 cedis,” he bemoaned.
The General Manager of Kantanka Automobile, Francis Kujoji disclosed that the company is looking to import about 300 forty-footer containers of vehicle components every year which will be equivalent to 600 TEUs of imports annually especially as they are looking to grow the productions significantly, following the effectiveness of the new Ghana Automotive Manufacturing Development Programme Policy.
“We are estimating over 300 forty footer containers per year,” the General Manager hinted.
On the company’s preparedness to sell beyond the Ghanaian Market, he revealed that they have already exported to Norway and Liberia and are getting remarkable demands from the Sub-regional and regional Markets.
“Our first export was to Liberia and to the then President of Liberia, Sirleaf Johnson,” Mr. Kujoji revealed.
The Customs division of the Ghana Revenue Authority has emphasized that from the 1st of November, 2020 it will commence the enforcement of the law that bans the importation of salvaged vehicles into Ghana barring any unanticipated circumstances and if all provisions stipulated in the law are fulfilled.
Speaking on Eye on Port, the state agency mandated to supervise imports stipulated however that for vehicles over ten years of age, it will require the Finance Minister in consultation with the Minister responsible for Trade through a legislative instrument to specify a date on which a motor vehicle of such nature will not be allowed into Ghana after some conditions stipulated in the Customs Amendment Act, Section 154 (2).
“The prohibition against the importation of salvaged motor vehicles into the country under paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 58 shall come into force six (6) months after the date of the coming into force of this Act,” the Assistant Commissioner of Customs in charge of Policy and Programs of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Mr. Aweya Julius Kantum disclosed.
He said, since the Act was assented to on the 30th of April, 2020 its commencement should be from the 30th of October, 2020 and enforcement should begin a day after the law takes effect.
The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority explained that for every used vehicle that will be brought into the country from the day after the Law takes effect, in this case, 31st October, 2020, shippers or importers will be required to provide a clean tittle as well as ensure that the cars are not wrecked, destroyed or physically damaged by collision, fire, water or any other occurrence.
Mr. Aweya Julius Kantum added that “the other one which talks about the specification of the date where chapter 87 of the first schedule of the customs tariff, i.e. heading 87.03 and 87.04 where the duty rate is expected to go up to 35%, that has to be on the basis of a legislative instrument”.
Mr. Justice Njornan Magah Yadjayime, Supervisor in charge of Vehicle Valuation Unit of the Customs Technical Services Bureau (CTSB) also explained that contrary to popular opinion that there is ambiguity in with the definition of salvaged by the law, the Act has left room for no human discretionary authority beyond what the law stipulates.
“The law is looking at the number of ways vehicles get damaged, so you are looking at flooding, collision etc. so all have been covered so that you don’t leave it to anybody’s judgement to say that this one can go and this one will not go, no,” he opined.
The Customs Officials further explained what importers of vehicles are expected to provide before clearing used cars in order to prove that they are not salvaged, from 1st November.
“In our case now where we are going to have the Automotive Industry, the Ghana Standards Authority is playing a key role where they are going to be looking at other aspects of it, the certificate of conformance for used cars and homologation certificates for brand new cars before importers can clear their cars.”
They emphasized importers should from now begin to weigh the caliber of vehicles that they import into the country.
“Usually, importers employ the services of shipping agents who are able to help them to go through the documentation so the agents are the main source of information for the importers. So once a shipper gets to know that these are the requirements before one can ship a vehicle into Ghana, they must comply to meet the requirements before shipping a car into Ghana.”
The Assistant Commissioner of Customs in charge of Policy and Programs of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Mr. Aweya Julius Kantum also revealed that, the Authority will start enforcing the law from first November and therefore the law will apply to any vehicle that is brought by a vessel that docks on first of November, 2020 and beyond.
“The time of importation in customs is the time that the ship docks and reports to customs that it has docked. If the ship comes from 1st November, it means it is time bound and it means that the law will catch it.”
The Customs top hierarchy also explained why some specific vehicles including those designed for the transport of persons other than those under the heading 87.02 including station wagons and racing cars and motor vehicles not exceeding 5 tonnes for the transport of goods will attract 35% import duty.
“The local manufacturers are doing their business and the government is looking at a number of parameters to assist them, so if everyone is allowed to bring in vehicles that the local manufacturers are already manufacturing here in Ghana at a cheaper rate, it will not help the local manufacturing companies that government is trying to pop up. That is why some of these conditions have been put in place so that if you still want to import these same cars that are manufactured in Ghana, then you pay the 35%, otherwise there are alternatives here for people to buy from,” Mr. Justice Yadjayime, explained.
Mr. Aweya Julius Kantum further enlightened that the law was made to protect the local automotive industry.
“One must avert him/herself with the internment of the law, if the import duty remains very low, how can local manufacturers or assemblers be able to compete with the imported foreign ones. Of course you have to encourage them with incentives so that they can also invest and have returns on their investments.”
They explained that this will not contravene the ECOWAS regional protocols which pegs Customs External Tariffs for vehicles at 20% import duty.
They explained that about 70% imported vehicles are already used and about 90% of imported used cars are salvaged.
They said there are options to place some responsibilities on shipping lines to ensure that they don’t carry vehicles that do not have clean tittles or are salvaged.
“Carriers also have some responsibilities. Shipping agents have responsibilities to their clients. Now Shipping agents ought to know the laws that pertain in Ghana and when he or she knows, he/she will then advise his client that from 1st November Ghana is not accepting salvaged vehicles and the carrier will be seized with that information, then it will be incumbent on them not to bring the cargo, but once they bring the cargo, then they will be liable.”
They said though the Ministry of Trade has done some analysis on the impact of the Policy on Customs Revenue among others, they believe that the overall effect on the national economy far outweighs the sacrifice.
According to the Officers, government is firm on implementing this particular ban on salvaged vehicles and therefore hope that the public will be able to start observing the need to avoid such vehicles and had a general advice for the public.
“Now anybody who intends to import, should be reminded that if the cargo arrives before the first of November then he or she is within time, if it’s after that, then it means they are time bound. Now don’t assume that the law is going to change, work on the basis that the law is going to start and then you will not fall foul of the law.”
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism and Member of Parliament for Afigya-Kwabre North Constituency, Nana Marfo Amaniampong and a Deputy Minister of Transport and Member of Parliament for Tema East Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover who is also a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism have both applauded the presidency for what they described as a bold initiative to direct all Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs) as well as Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and all state owned agencies to prioritize as their first option, the purchase of locally assembled vehicles they intend to procure.
In a letter dated, 3rd July, 2020 and signed by the Chief of Staff, Hon. Akosua Frema Osei-Opare, the President directed that “effective July, 2020 all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) as well as all State Owned Agencies which desire to acquire new vehicles, should prioritized as their first option, the purchase of locally assembled vehicles they intend to procure.”
Speaking on Eye on Port, the duo said the move comes as an attestation to the seriousness the President and his government attaches to industrialization of the Ghanaian economy beyond aid, increasing employment, encouraging investment and preserving foreign exchange all geared towards growing the Ghanaian economy.
“The President by this document is giving a lot of support to this initiative, which by the way is his own baby. My outfit which is parliament for example is a bad example. When we want chairs, we go to China to import. The government wants to curtail all these bad practices.” the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism asserted.
According to Nana Marfo Amaniampong, Ghana has gotten to the point where it needs to create permanent jobs by implementing such efficient policies.
“Going forward, the President is saying that MDAs, MMDAs and all state owned agencies and even schools, the next batch of cars and buses that we give to the secondary schools or the tertiary institutions, will be vehicles which have been assembled in Ghana here. That will tell people how serious the president is as far as his policies are concern,” he echoed.
The Deputy Minister of Transport though admitted that demand may outdo the capacity of local manufacturers from the early stages, eventually the benefit will far compensate for the initial inconveniences.
“Imagine all these MMDAs, how many manufacturing companies do we even have, I am sure Nissan and one or two others, but every institution and the kind of vehicle they want, be it, saloon cars, pickups, land cruisers etc., so it’s going to take quite a little time. But we need to encourage ourselves, because the vision that the president has brought is a very laudable one,” the Deputy Transport Minister added.
On Tuesday March 3, 2020, Parliament adopted and approved the Joint Committees on Finance, Trade, Industry and Tourism report for amendments to be made in the Customs Act, 2015.
The new Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2020 sought to amend the Customs Act, 2015 (Act 891) to provide incentives for automotive manufacturers and assemblers registered under the Ghana Automotive Manufacturing Development Programme (GAMDP).
The Bill is also to prohibit the importation of salvaged motor vehicles comprising wrecked, destroyed, or physically damaged by collision, fire, water or other occurrences as well as specified motor vehicles over 10 years of age into the country.
The Customs (Amendment) Bill, 2020 will also increase the import duty on specific motor vehicles and provide import duty exemptions for the security agencies and officers of the security agencies especially those who go on various assignments and peacekeeping in the security interest of Ghana.
The Bill was subsequently referred to the Joint Committees on Finance, Trade, Industry and Tourism for consideration and report in accordance with Article 174 of the Constitution and Orders 159 and 169 of the Standing Orders of Parliament.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive programme, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism, Nana Marfo Amaniampong confirmed that the President of the Republic has assented to the bill and thus become law from 30th of April 2019.
“You know, under the customs Amendment Bill 20202, its been assented, but you know we had to wait six months before it becomes operational, so effective October, if nothing untoward happens, it may come into force,” the Chairman confirmed.
He said it’s instructive, that 6 months after the bill became law which in this case is 30th of October, 2020, its enforcement will commence.
“Left to me, I would love a total ban so that there will be pressure on us to act and deploy all arsenals so that production may be tripled and everybody in Ghana may begin to drive a brand new car but given where we are coming from, that may be difficult at the moment, but at least that should be the direction of the nation,” he urged.
Nana Marfo Amaniampong who is also the Member of Parliament for Afigya-Kwabre North Constituency explained that the time has come for the nation to move away from reliance on such salvaged, rickety and old vehicles to protect and improve the lives of its citizens.
“We cannot continue to depend on the salvaged cars. And you know, these high rate of accidents, we have on our roads can largely be attributed to that angle,” Nana Marfo Amaniampong said.
A Deputy Minister of Transport and Member of Parliament for Tema East Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus Glover, also a former Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism contributing on the subject of the banning of salvaged and overaged vehicles said the law is in line with the overall agenda of government towards transforming the Transportation sector of the nation’s economy.
“The major essence of the Ministry and for that matter, the vision of the President as to how we can promote effective public transport system because we have too much congestion on our major roads,” the Deputy Minister of Transport said.
He said when the enforcement of the law commences, it will improve the transport sector through modernized standards. “I believe sincerely that, we can cure this problem of congestion, where we have all kinds of vehicles that are overaged being imported into our country and also serve as another way to prevent Ghana becoming a dumping ground for such substandard vehicles. And there are times that when some of these vehicles are imported, their parts may not even be available and they have to improvise and these contribute to some of the accidents on our roads,” he explained.
He said the law will ensure safety of cars, drivers and passengers and reduce records of accidents and traffic congestion in Ghana.
“We cannot say that because of the Commercial vehicles, we should allow all kinds of vehicles into our country, there should be a stop somewhere, so that we will be able to control the system. And some of these vehicles come in the form of cargo vans then they are sent to the garages and do some improvise seats in those wagons but originally that’s not how they came,” Titus-Glover emphasized.
The Deputy Minister urged Ghanaians to re-orient themselves to embrace the new law that will ban the importation of such salvaged and overaged vehicles as the Ministry of Finance lead the way to commence public sensitization.
“Importers need to conform with the law and to do that, it is a matter of education and advocacy to let the public know, because even somebody will say that the law has been passed and we are not aware of it, indeed ignorance of the law is no excuse, but the Ministry of Finance and Customs Division must commence intensive education to sensitize, that the following law will be operational from October barring all unforeseen circumstances,” the Deputy Transport Minister and Member of Parliament advised.
Stakeholders in the transit sector including Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Ghana Highways Authority, Niger Shippers’ Council, Mali Shippers’ Council, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA)-Customs Division, Burkina Shippers’ Council, Burkina Chamber of Commerce, National Security and the State Insurance Company have reviewed the performance of transit trade for the first half of 2020.
At a second quarter meeting of the Greater Accra Transit Shipper Committee held at the Ghana Shippers’ House issues such as the impact of COVID-19 on trade and challenges associated with the implementation of the newly introduced Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS), among others were discussed by the stakeholders.
Challenges mentioned raised include, the return to the manual clearance of goods at the Ports, physical escorts of transit goods instead of tracking devices and its attendant general delays leading to demurrage and rent charges.
A representative of the Mali Shippers’ Council appealed to the GSA to intervene on behalf of transit shippers whose goods have attracted demurrage and rent charges due to the inability of the new integrated customs management system to process declarations on time.
The Head of Freight and Logistics of the GSA, Fred Asiedu-Dartey assured the stakeholders of the Authority’s preparedness to raise their concerns with the relevant authorities for redress.
The Head of Inter-State Road Transit (ISRT) of the SIC, Anthony Osei Ntiamoah reported that 12,078 trucks carted transit cargo between January and March to Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Cote d’lvoire, Togo, Benin and Nigeria while the National Guarantor issued 8,672 transit bonds during the same period.
The Transit Shipper Committee was established by the GSA to address challenges faced by shippers along Ghana’s transit corridor and also deepen Ghana’s trading relationship with land-locked nations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
The Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) and the Ghana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) have renewed commitments to facilitate trade by air through regular inter-agency engagements for the benefit of exporters and importers.
The two state agencies made the pledge when the Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Benonita Bismarck and her team paid a courtesy call on the Aviation Authority.
The visit formed part of the GSA’s strategic plan to deepen its relationship with stakeholders in the shipping and logistics industry with the overall objective of protecting and promoting the interests of shippers in Ghana.
Benonita Bismarck stressed the need for the two organisations to strengthen their collaborative efforts to remove trade bottlenecks inhibiting trade facilitation.
She said it was in furtherance to this commitment that the GSA established a Shipper Complaint and Support Unit at the Kotoka International Airport to readily resolve complaints of shippers.
Receiving the delegation, the Deputy Director-General (Technical) of GCAA Ing. Charles Kraikue thanked the GSA for the visit and pledged his outfit’s commitment to work more closely together in the interest of stakeholders.
He expressed his organisation’s willingness to provide the GSA with up-to-date trade statistics on air cargo volumes.
Other issues discussed during the visit were challenges faced by shippers as a result of the implementation of the new Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS), the need for a centralised database for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for the registration of shippers among others.
The GSA team also had meetings with officials of the Ghana Airport Company Limited and Air Ghana and discussed other trade facilitation issues at the airport and the way forward to addressing them.
During the launch of the operational phase of the AfCFTA in Niamey, Niger on 7th July, 2019, AU Heads of State and governments decided that, 7th July of each year be designated as Africa Integration Day without it being a holiday, to commemorate the operationalization of the AfCFTA and popularise economic and social integration across the continent, as a lever of inclusive sustainable development.
African countries were encouraged to come up with commemorative activities to observe and celebrate the achievements of AfCFTA in the preceding year.
As we celebrate the maiden edition of the Africa Integration Day, Eye on Port engaged pundits assess how far the continent has come in its efforts to integrate and how member countries including Ghana are positioning themselves to harness the opportunities embedded in the continental free trade area agreement that has been signed by 54 out of 55 member countries and ratified by about 30 countries so far.
A Technical Advisor on Multilateral, Regional and Bilateral Trade to Ghana’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, Anthony Kwasi Nyame-Baafi explained that Ghana as a small market nation on the continent delights in the integration agenda of the region.
“Regional Integration is actually the way forward for our Social Economic Development as a nation.”
He said even bigger markets are equally enthused about the economic integration of Africa due to the enormous opportunity that it presents.
“We are anticipating that with the implementation of AfCFTA, it will actually boost Intra-African Trade for the benefit of Ghana and all other nations.”
A Principal Policy Advisor to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Joseph Atta-Mensah explained that having a free trade area is the same as having a regional integration and that not enough policies had been put in place by the continent to trade among itself in the past.
“You want to look at a point where you don’t want to stop exporting cocoa in its raw form. You want to be able to export chocolate rather and compete with the Belgians. Therefore, it requires you to see how you can make your chocolate very competitive in the global market place. And I think this is the opportunity.”
While praising all efforts made by African leaders to bring the integration agenda to fruition, Joseph Atta-Mensah advised Ghana to take advantage and create a financial hub and focus on relying on manufacturing to remain competitive.
“Since Trade is going to come, there will be movement of capital, there will be movement of equity, there will be movement of the financial market. So why don’t you look at making Ghana a financial hub?”
National President of the Borderless Alliance, Ziad Hamoui said civil society is excited that the continent has moved from conversation on commitment to implementation and urged stakeholders to come together and build a resilient agenda.
“I cannot personally believe that investors are trooping to Africa and there is no potential nor investment opportunities. There is an investment opportunity, there is a high quality product that value needs to be added, manufactured and produced in-house within the continent and then traded across.”
He said there had been lack of clarity in previous regulations and therefore commended dispute regulation protocols instituted in AfCFTA.
“There will be an established body similar to what the World Trade Organization has which may have the powers to sanction some of the countries that will flout regulations.”
The policy advisor to UNECA highlighted lessons that can be drawn from sub-regional economic bodies like ECOWAS, SADC, ECAS, UEMOA.
Anthony Nyame-Baafi highlighted structures and actions Ghana has taken to harness the potential of AfCFTA.
He said COVID-19 had disrupted initiatives that were near their conclusive stages.
On easing up border restrictions by member countries the pundits urged caution.
The Ghana flagged Tuna Purse Seine vessel called Panofi Frontier that was hijacked by suspected Nigeria pirates in Benin waters on Wednesday at about 1400 hours has been located and guided to the Tema Port by the Ghana Navy.
It is reported that there were 30-member crew on board the vessel, out of which 25 were Ghanaians and 5 were Koreans.
6 crew members, 5 Koreans including captain of the vessel and a Ghanaian cook called Kofi Opuni on boarded the vessel are reported to have been abducted by the pirates and could still not be found at the time the vessel was brought to the Port of Tema by the Ghanaian Navy.
According to the Ghana Navy, they met the vessel at the Ghana-Togo border and brought it to the Port of Tema anchorage on Thursday, 25th June, 2020.
According to the Navy, apart from the 6 crew members who had been captured, the remaining 24 crew were safe and in Ghana but the Navy is still gathering detail information on the entire incidence.
Security agencies at the Port of Tema including the Port Security, Marine Police, Navy and members of the Joint Port Control Units have all joined forces to investigate the incident to unravel the circumstances leading to the hijack.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has been supported by the European Union through the EU WeCAPS project, with over half a million cedis worth of personal protective equipment to help the fight against COVID-19.
These PPEs include 5000 pcs surgical masks, 2000pcs KN95 Nose masks, 2000 disposable surgical gowns, face shields, gun thermometers, gloves. goggles, overalls, hand sanitizers and accompanying dispensers, scrubs and cover-alls.
These items will be used in the various GPHA health facilities as well as the operational and administrative areas of the Ports of Tema and Takoradi. Additionally, the Regional Maritime University also received a related donation of PPEs from the EU.
According to the EU Ambassador to Ghana, Diana Acconcia, WeCAPS which is funded by the European Union and implemented by Expertise France, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak is ensuring that partner ports in West and Central African sub region are supported to manage and mitigate the impact of the coronavirus.
She said, this project is part of a wider policy of the European Union to support maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea area, which ensures that the capacity of Port Authorities in the West and Central African sub region is enhanced.
The Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Michael Luguje, praised the efforts of the European Union and their partners and expressed that this gesture would augment the Port Authority’s COVID-19 related activities and help ensure that Ghana’s Port environment is safe for business continuity.
The Pro Vice Chancellor of the Regional Maritime University, Jethro Brooks expressed the significance of the donation to the tertiary institution especially as it embarks on its continuity plans.
The Sevenlog Managing Director, Christophe Monmarché who was also the WeCAPS focal point applauded the EU and also commented on the positive impact the donation would have on the port community.
In addition to Tema and Takoradi ports, it was revealed that Doula, Cameroon, Brazzaville, and Pointe Noire of Congo, Abidjan and San Pedro of Cote D’Ivoire, Dakar, Senegal and Lome, Togo are other beneficiary ports of this project.
The Minister of Railway Development, Joe Ghartey has revealed that the Ministry will be ordering over 30 standard gauge trains in June this year.
According to him, the Ministry has already gotten approval of about 130million dollars’ worth of trains which will be purchased from a company in China.
Speaking live on Eye on Port’s interactive programme on national television, Joe Ghartey stated that the technical committee of the Ministry is engaging their counterparts in China to agree on the specifications on the trains.
“Once they agree on the specification we will sign the particulars of the contract and then we order,” he said.
He said the about 35 trains including both standard and narrow gauge trains would be ordered in June 2020 and should arrive latest by 2021.
“We need to make the order ahead of time for them to bring it, so if we order now it may not come this year, it will come in about 18months time. We are seeking advice from the Ghana Railway Company limited for them to tell us how many trains they will need,” he said.
“If you look at our passenger trains, they are not sufficient for the demand in addition to the fact that post COVID-19, now we can’t park our trains so we need more passenger trains hence have ordered some from a South Africa company called Transnet,” he added.
He revealed that the Ministry is purchasing more standard gauge for 2 reasons.
“Standard gauge is what the African Union and ECOWAS have said that the entire Africa should use so that we can have train that will set off from Djibouti and come all the way to Ghana. In East Africa, they are doing cross country railway line. We have started in Ghana that is the Ghana-Burkina rail line,” he said.
The Minister said about one hundred (100) old coaches were sold before he assumed office but he ensured that the rest that were left when he took office are rehabilitated and currently being operated.
“The train that goes to Nsawam is a rehabilitated train. The passenger train that goes to Takoradi is also rehabilitated,” he said.
The British, according to him left 947 kilometres of rail line but when he was appointed a minister what was left was barely 10% of that figure.
“And even that 10% was barely working. The last time a train went to Kumasi to Accra was in 2001 on the eastern line. On the western line, it was 2004.” the Minister of Railways Development explained.
The Minister of Railway Development, Joe Ghartey, has revealed that ongoing rail constructions which should have seen completion by end of August 2020, have halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as over 70 workers undertaking the construction tested positive for the virus.
Speaking on the Role of Rail in Multimodal Connectivity and Economic Growth in Ghana, the Railway Minister revealed that COVID-19 has significantly affected all rail projects across the country.
“The thing that disturbed us the most was that we were about to do the 300 meters across the Volta river and the infamous COVID-19 came and affected the project. When the President announced the lockdown he excluded railways and roads thankfully. But what happened was that over 70 workers in the camp got the virus,” he said.
According to Joe Ghartey, who is also the Member of Parliament for Essikado-Ketan Constituency, although the affected patients have so far recovered, construction works is yet to resume on the various rail lines.
“Thanks be to God all of them have recovered and the Ministry of health in the Eastern region have written that all have recovered and they will be getting to work soon,” he added.
Again, he revealed that the government will give a cash injection to salvage the losses of the Ghana Railway Company Ltd who haven’t been paid for three months because they couldn’t make money from both working on the passenger and cargo lines due to the fact that they were also halted as a result of COVID-19.
“All our work across the railway sector have been affected by the Covid-19. Ghana Railway Company revenue has gone down and they had to shut down their passenger services because they want to observe social distancing and they run at a massive loss,” the Railways Minister asserted.
The Minister assured of his outfit’s commitment to ensure the over 20billion worth of railway projects being undertaken by government stays on course.
He said because the national rail network is capital intensive, government has adopted different financial modules for different segments of the rail lines.
These financial modules include one that government will directly invest its money in, as well as parts which would be on a build, operate and transfer investment module by foreign investors who would bring on board capital, human resource expertise, and modern technology.
“What will happen in some of the lines is that government will be putting its money in various parts of the line while looking for strategic partners,” he stated.
He revealed that the Ministry of Railways has arrived at a shortlist of 3 foreign investors where one would be selected in August to construct the rest of the eastern line to complete the lines from Mpakadan to Paga.
The said line will connect Ghana with the Sahelian regions where a lot of goods are transited to and from Ghana. He said the masterplan of Government is also to extend both the central spine rail lines from Accra to Kumasi to Tamale and Paga to connect to the northern frontier and western rail lines in order to enjoy the full benefits of all the lines.
Joe Ghartey, who is a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice asserted that government would make way for private participation for the branch lines that would connect to cities and the main national lines.
Joe Ghartey disclosed that, the Government of Ghana ambitiously plans to provide light rail infrastructure within the inner city to solve the problem of heavy traffic in Accra and other traffic-laden areas.
He stated that the year 2004 was the last time cocoa was carted on the western line and this has negatively impacted the cost of doing cocoa business.
In order to address this, the Minister of Railway Development stated that the western lines which are currently being revamped will relieve the pressure suffered by roads which get constantly destroyed by heavy duty vehicles carrying goods.
“One of the reasons why the Tarkwa and all the other roads are spoilt is because of the heavy trucks that are moving on the road.
If we don’t build the railway to take away heavy trucks on the roads then the roads will get spoilt again,” he stressed.
The Minister of Railway Development, Joe Ghartey denied assertions that hauliers who use the road corridors are sabotaging the construction of rail lines due the perceived threat to their businesses and opined that the railways would rather create alternative business for them.
Joe Ghartey disclosed that consultations have been done with all local and traditional authorities in areas where constructions are undergoing and they have given their full commitment towards the successful completion of railway projects despite some socio-economic consequences that may be suffered in the interim.
“The Chiefs have been wonderful from North to South. The minister for Local Government, the DCEs we have had excellent relationship with them,” he noted.
The Minister of Railways Development, Joe Ghartey has given the strongest indication that workers of the Ghana Railway Company Limited who haven’t been paid for some three months now will in the coming week be paid.
According to Joe Ghartey, who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Essikado-Ketan Constituency the 3 months’ salary arrears is as a result of the fact that the Ghana Manganese Company Limited stopped its operations.
“Ghana Railway Company Limited earns it money from manganese and what happened was that the manganese company didn’t operate for some time,” he said.
Speaking on Eye on Port interactive session on national television, he gave the assurance that government is giving a cash injection which will cover all the company’s expenses up to March 2021.
The money, he said “will hit the account next week”.
He entreated workers of the company to always endeavour to give off their best in the discharge of their duties.
“It is not free money and I trust that they will respect government’s good intention for the sector and they will also improve their delivery and I have confidence in them,” he said.
Joe Ghartey disclosed that the 97km rail line eastern route from Tema to Mpakadan is 60% complete.
The percentage of completion, according to him, is based on the interim payment certificate that have been passed by the consultants of the project.
“They have passed 24 Interim payment certificate so far and the certificate is based on the work that have been done so far,” he said.
He revealed that ongoing rail constructions which should have seen completion by end of August 2020, have halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as over 70 workers undertaking the construction tested positive for the virus.
Speaking on the on the Role of Rail in Multimodal Connectivity and Economic Growth in Ghana, the Railway Minister revealed that COVID-19 has significantly affected all rail projects across the country.
The thing that disturbed us the most was that we were about to do the 300 meters across the Volta river and the infamous covid-19 came and affected the project.
When the President announced the lockdown he excluded railways and roads thankfully. But what happened was that over 70 workers in the camp got the virus,” he said.
The Minister of Railways Development, Hon. Joe Ghartey has disclosed that the 97km rail line eastern route from Tema to Mpakadan is 60% complete.
The percentage of completion, according to him, is based on the interim payment certificate that have been passed by the consultants of the project.
“They have passed 24 Interim payment certificate so far and the certificate is based on the work that have been done so far,” he said.
The Minister said government is working assiduously to ensure that the eastern rail line is completed to achieve its intended purpose.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive programme on Metro TV, he revealed each of the railway lines that are being constructed in the country are economically viable.
“When you are thinking development, you don’t think short term view. You don’t think for now,” he said.
Joe Ghartey who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Essikado-Ketan also assured workers of the Ghana Railway Company Limited who haven’t been paid for some months now that they will soon be paid.
“Ghana Railway Company Limited earns it money from manganese and what happened was that the manganese company didn’t operate for some time. Government is giving a cash injection which will cover all the company’s expenses up to next year March. The money will hit the account next week,” he assured.
He entreated workers of the company to always endeavour to give off their best in the discharge of their duties.
“It is not free money and I trust that they will respect government’s good intension for the sector and they will also improve their delivery and I have confidence in them,” he said.
The Minister revealed that several investors have expressed interest in the Aflao to Elubo rail line.
Joe Ghartey said the longest train in the world is run by Transnet in South Africa which is 4kilometers and added that the Ghana Railway Company Ltd, has signed a contract with Transnet to pull 50% of manganese through rail.
“So when we came (to power) we didn’t fall asleep, we entered into a contract with Ghana Manganese and said we will rehabilitate the narrow gauge line and use it to pull manganese. In December last year, Ghana Railway Company Limited signed a contract with Transnet to pull 50% of the manganese through rail,” he hinted.
The Chief Executive Officer of the International Maritime Hospital, Dr. Yaw Oppong has advised the general public to accept the possibilities of living with the coronavirus, hence, the need for modifying lifestyles.
“COVID-19, whether we like it or not for some foreseeable future is here to stay. It is up to us to modify our lifestyles to live with it until a cure is found,” he recommended.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on the Role of International Maritime Health Facilities in Fighting Public Health Threats like COVID-19, the Head of IMaH, stated that the search for a suitable vaccine for the new coronavirus might take longer than some anticipate.
“We shouldn’t be too hopeful that by next year a vaccine would be found. At least now about 13 vaccines are undergoing clinical trials, but there are no guarantees,” he cautioned.
He continued to say that due to the uncertainty associated with anticipating an end to this public health crisis, socio economic life would have to resume but with caution.
“Look at HIV, it has been around for some time now. Ebola goes and comes. If we get a vaccine that is a win for us, but we may not get one. We can also not be in lockdown forever. We would have to live our lives, but redefine the level of lives we live,” he opined.
Dr. Oppong also opined that the slower rate of transmission in Africa compared to that of the temperate zones, could be attributed to the African weather condition, saying that research has proven that the virus does not survive long in hotter temperatures.
He, however, cautioned Ghanaians not to be complacent with the coronavirus as it continues to take lives but rather encouraged the continued commitment to precautionary measures instituted by health authorities.
“Continue to wash hands regularly, use the hand sanitizers, wear the recommended face masks, and keep our social distancing. We should also take care of ourselves by eating well, exercising, and avoiding stress to boost our immune” he urged.
The Head of Clinical Services at the International Maritime Hospital, Dr. Helen Tettey urged the public to stay updated with education on coronavirus in order not to miss out on vital information that may emerge.
“In the midst of all this, there are important discoveries that are being made and so when you stop following, you can miss out especially for clinicians. There could be something in there that could be useful,” she said.
Dr. Helen Tettey, who is also the Consultant Anaesthesiologist dismissed the claim by some sections of the public that the wearing of face masks can cause hypoxia.
“In theatre we wear face masks, and that is the norm and sometimes we wear it conducting surgeries for 10-14 hours, it doesn’t affect you. If what they are saying is true, then we should have been affected. Yet, we are here, unaffected,” she expressed.
She, therefore, called for continued wearing of the face masks in public spaces to reduce the spread of the virus, even though she could sympathize with the discomfort associated with it.
“The benefits far outweigh the risks so I would ask everyone to wear their face masks,” she implored.
Dr. Tettey also called for improve social distancing among the citizenry as she lamented that, it is the main precautionary measure that has been neglected within the country.
Yet, the Head of IMaH, Dr. Sylvester Yaw Oppong, said despite the several socio-economic challenges that have emerged due to the coronavirus pandemic, one of the positive takeaways from the current circumstances is the inculcation of sobriety in human activity and hoped that value carries on, even after the pandemic.
“It is letting us become sober and return to human values, and eliminating the unnecessary things. And I’m even hoping that after COVID-19, funerals for example would be scaled down,” he expressed.
The Head of Clinical Services of the International Maritime Hospital, Dr. Helen Tettey, has called on the general public who are interested in both specialist and general health care to take advantage of IMaH as their services are of the international standard and yet affordable.
“We have the full complement of services; from lab, to radiology which includes CT Scan, MRI, fluoroscopy, mammography, ENT, dental and eye services, a dialysis centre all fully running,” she listed.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on the Role of International Maritime Health Facilities in Fighting Public Health Threats like COVID-19, she said the International Maritime Hospital has resumed all its expert surgical procedures that hitherto was on a break due to the coronavirus, and entreated the public to engage IMaH for all their health concerns.
She recounted a neurosurgery that was recently done by a team of medical professionals at IMaH which resonated in the Tema Community.
“This client was supposed to go to another facility but they had cancelled elective surgery yet he was getting more and more complicated.
He couldn’t have the surgery in that facility, so he quickly came to IMaH and we did a craniotomy for him, and thankfully he has recovered amazingly. The patient was so grateful,” she revealed.
Dr. Tettey, who is also the Consultant Anaesthesiologist at the International Maritime Hospital entreated women in particular to take advantage of the improved gynaecological services available at the hospital facilities, citing success stories that from laparoscopic procedures in the removal of fibroids.
“What everybody knows is for an open surgery, to get the fibroid out, but what we are doing in IMaH is new. What we are doing is through a key hole. We won’t have to cut you open. And within the same day or next day you are ready to go home. The success stories are so many. We had to do one for a woman who had so many complications and the fibroid was making her situation even more complex, yet we did the surgery efficiently to her amazement,” she added.
The Head of Clinical Services at IMaH continued to urge the general public to adopt a prevention-oriented attitude towards their health rather than ad hoc solutions to health conditions during complications.
She said to encourage regular check-ups within the Ghanaian populace, IMaH introduces several initiatives periodically across the span of the year that cater to specific aspects of human health.
“What we do in IMaH is that we offer service to our clients in any way or form. Your health is important so whichever way we can get you to come we have introduced different packages. One which we were offering until the pandemic, is Hearty IMaH which allows a full heart screen at a subsidized fee,” she said.
The CEO of IMaH, Dr. Yaw Oppong, on the same program, emphasized that IMaH is not only available for members of the maritime industry but the entire Ghanaian populace as well as the International community.
“Ours is a fully-fledged medical facility that looks after everybody not just the maritime,” he stated.
Dr. Oppong added that although the patient attendance has generally reduced over the period of the coronavirus pandemic, its conducive mortuary facility remained attractive to clients.
“There was even a point where we had a nightmare where it got to full capacity. We even had to transform a cold room to add to it.”
He said after the partial lockdown experienced in the country which allowed clients to retrieve their corpses, allowed for some decongesting only for the mortuary facility to get to full capacity again.
This according to Dr. Oppong allowed for some expansion of the mortuary facility which has a hall that could be used for private burial services in consistency with the current convention.
“The hall can take about 50 people, but we have reduced to 25 in consistency with the president’s directive for social distancing,” he explained.
The Chief Executive Officer of the International Maritime Hospital, Dr. Sylvester Yaw Oppong has stated that the International Maritime Hospital, is well-positioned to help solve some of the health concerns of members of the international trade community who find themselves in Ghana to do business.
“When people are doing business in the port space, they are more comfortable when there is a facility that would see to their healthcare needs, especially in times of emergency. And in that respect IMaH is particularly well-placed,” he said.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on the Role of International Maritime Health Facilities in Fighting Public Health Threats like COVID-19, the Head of IMaH revealed that one of the principal motives for establishing such a world class hospital to complement operations of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority is to strategically position Ghana as the gateway to West Africa.
“When people are entering the country, one of the things that make them very uncomfortable, is the health services available in that country.
Some of them when they are coming they are very apprehensive that should I come and get a heart attack, do they have facility to take care of me?” he continued.
Dr. Oppong asserted that currently, many within Ghana’s ports and maritime industry, including foreign nationals seek healthcare from the International Maritime Hospital, with the expectation of increasing the numbers considerably due the variety of specialist healthcare services offered.
“These agencies, even without enrolling all their staff, they make sure that the expatriate staff have access to IMaH, because of the standard of healthcare here. Going forward the development of the Tema Port, and the presence of the International Maritime Hospital, will make foreigners coming in, to feel comfortable and be confident in getting the level of healthcare they are used to.”
Dr. Helen Tettey, the Head of Clinical Services of the International Maritime Hospital also said IMaH has been readily positioned to help keep the gates of the country away from the importation and spread of public health threats, and has since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic collaborated with the GPHA Clinic and the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service in that regard.
“We have several interactions with them. And so, if there is anything of the sort, the first point of call is the Port Health, but if there is any client they need to move for treatment, because of the connection with us, we are available to take care of the patient,” she said.
Dr. Tettey, who is also the Consultant Anaesthesiologist at IMaH, revealed that even though IMaH had to remodel a lot of its healthcare services since the advent of COVID-19, it has been able to effectively collaborate to handle first hand situations associated with the COVID-19 before transfer is made to the designated national treatment centres.
“Once they are doing that, we also test our in-patients, so if somebody comes with any condition and we suspect that it is COVID-19 or associated with it, we have an isolation bay, where we hold the person, take samples, and continue to treat him or her before the results come."
We have done several of those since the pandemic,” she disclosed.
The General Manager of the Health Services Department of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Dr. Vitus Victor Anaab-Bisi, has expressed his disapproval for mass testing of the general public due to the financial implications it would have on an economy like Ghana.
“To do the mass testing with no justification, I do not advise it. There must be prudent use of resources. It is not sustainable,” he opined.
Speaking as a panellist live on Eye on Port, the Head of GPHA’s Health Services, also explained that mass testing especially in institutions may not prove to be useful in stemming the spread of coronavirus.
“The virus is such that it can be transmitted anytime, any day. So one person can be tested today, be negative, and still contract the virus tomorrow,” he elaborated.
The respected medical doctor, however, encouraged stricter adherence to health etiquettes as well as effective contact tracing as a more reliable strategy in containing the COVID-19.
“You can make sure that if someone tests positive, you would do the proper contact tracing and have all contacts tested even if they are one thousand, and that’s what we have been doing so far,” he said.
Dr. Anaab also said, regular fumigation in enclosed areas, is also a reliable and cost-efficient method of reducing the spread of the coronavirus especially at the organisational level.
“Regular, periodic fumigation would help, with the appropriate chemicals that would last for long. Here, when someone who is infected sneezes or coughs in that environment, the chemical will supress it and people will be at less risk. We advise that for enclosed facilities,” he said.
A Nursing Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Regina Tedeku, also called for corporate organisations and benevolent business enterprises to support government with the provision of the needed logistics and equipment, especially adequate Personal Protective Equipment, for nurses and other frontline health workers as she shared some experiences.
“We are pleading with our authorities, employers, and companies to help provide with enough PPEs so that no nurse would refuse to attend to a patient because she doesn’t have the necessary protection,” she appealed.
Regina, who is also a Fellow of the West African College of Nurses bemoaned that, many frontline health workers especially those in less privileged health institutions are woefully exposed to the virus, during their service and their protection should be treated as an immediate priority.
Gideon Lamptey, the Consultant Medical Laboratory Scientist, on his part, called for more infrastructural support in terms of labs and equipment at the national level, to enable increased efficiency in carrying out their duties as the virus continues to spread in the country.
“Looking at the scenario of testing, its only Noguchi and KCCI, and a few other peripheral laboratories that are doing the test. In the Western world, there are a lot of laboratories. There is a lab policy, that needs to be followed. We want to urge government to put in place to ensure we have more than what we have now.”
Dr. Anaab-Bisi, also stated that moving forward, on the global level, countries, would have to expand and invest in sufficient state of the art facilities that can contain such public health emergencies.
A Senior Medical Laboratory Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Gideon Lamptey has called on the general public to desist from the stigmatization of health workers in particular in order not to demotivate them to stop serving the public against the spread of the COVID-19.
“I want to take this opportunity to appeal to the general public that it doesn’t help. Because we are fighting for God and Country. We want them to appreciate us when we come home and sit with them. They shouldn’t stigmatize. But rather encourage us to do more. If we don’t continue to do our work, the case rate would continue to increase without any help,” he beseeched.
Speaking live on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on Fighting COVID-19 at Ghana’s Ports: Celebrating Frontline Health Workers, the Consultant Laboratory Scientist, recounted some of the undesirable behaviours sections of the public demonstrate during the taking of samples for onward testing.
“There was one situation that we went to Ashaiman to take a sample, and by the time we had finished taking the sample, someone had the nerve to be videoing us. And I had to be stern on him,” he narrated.
Gideon, however, emphasized on the need for regular testing on the part of the frontline health workers, due to the delicate nature of their work.
A Nursing Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Regina Afua Tedeku, also lamented the psycho-social impact stigmatization would have on the Ghanaian society, and added her voice for its eradication.
“If you shun the person and you isolate them, this can push them into depression, and we all know the dire consequences of depression.”
She said, instead of flagrant labelling and shunning of patients of the coronavirus, it is in the society’s interest to cautiously ingratiate recovered patients warmly into the society.
The General Manager, Health Services Department of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Dr. Vitus Victor Anaab-Bisi, also urged recovered patients of the coronavirus to come out boldly, in order to serve as torch bearers for the fight against stigmatization.
“Indeed those who have had the disease, and have gone through treatment and have been cured, should make sure to come out, as champions and speak to it,” he encouraged.
Dr. Anaab-Bisi indicated that stigmatization is emerging as a social bane in these times of the coronavirus pandemic, and can gradually create a society where people, especially asymptomatic patients are unwilling to get tested.
According to him, this would worsen Ghana’s coronavirus situation and take a lot away from all the efforts that have been made to encourage collaboration from the general citizenry regarding testing and quarantining.
The panellists nonetheless, urged their colleagues serving as frontline health officials, to embrace the call to service in these challenging times to fulfill their very purpose in life.
The General Manager of Health Services Department of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Dr. Vitus Victor Anaab-Bisi, has revealed that no case of COVID-19 has been imported through ship or sea transportation and for that matter Ghana’s sea ports.
He attributed this success to rigorous efforts that have been instituted at the sea ports of Ghana by the Port Authority in collaboration with other partner stakeholders including the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service.
“When we had this pandemic, we didn’t even wait for the day WHO announced that it is a pandemic. We started our awareness program way back in January, together with port health to sensitize all stakeholders in the port community,” he said.
Dr. Anaab-Bisi’s revelation has become more essential considering the fact that ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the latter part of 2019, many have compared its devastating effect to the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic which is reported to have been introduced into the then Gold Coast by shipping and sea trade along the Southern Coast and overland across the Northern Frontier.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live panel discussion on Fighting COVID-19 at Ghana’s Ports and Celebrating the Frontline Health Workers, Dr. Anaab-Bisi revealed the various strategies that his outfit has undertaken, to ensure Ghana’s ports are safe from the importation and spread of the coronavirus to protect the port’s role as a major economic asset for the state.
“We had to spend to support Government and keep our staff, clients, and our business going. If we do not keep the ports safe, and the ports close down, Ghana will come to a halt,” he expressed.
He said the Port Authority put in place new strategies such as the mandatory health declaration forms that were introduced to ensure that seafarers who use Ghana’s ports were remotely monitored.
“What we did was that we designed a quick COVID-19 declaration form for all vessels. We distributed them to all shipping lines, and all clearing agents, so before a vessel will call our ports, they have to fill by answering critical questions concerning COVID-19 and provide feedback by email,” he disclosed.
Dr. Anaab said, the Management of the Port Authority, despite financial constraints, recognized the desperate times the country faced and played a key role in procuring all the needed equipment needed to augment the health services’ capacity to ensure the port’s clients, and operators within the port community are protected from the importation and spread of the coronavirus.
A Senior Medical Laboratory Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Gideon Lamptey on the same program, revealed that some frontline health workers at the port like himself, had to quickly adapt to the new situation in order to mediate between the crew of cargo vessels and the port community to ensure both parties are protected from the importation and spread of the coronavirus.
“We have instituted an emergency response team that includes doctors, nurses, pharmacist, laboratory scientists and we move to the various berths were the crew come to assist there. We had training from the harbour master and the professionals as to what to do and we have been applying since,” he said.
He revealed that his prior experience working in an Ebola treatment centre in Liberia, which posed a much bigger risk to his life, had contributed to grooming and disciplining him for the job at hand, and has been pleased to answer the call to help fight the coronavirus.
“Ebola is worse than COVID-19 in terms of the fatality rate. So, the experience killed the fear in me. I believe this training I had earlier especially also at Tema General Hospital where we had a case centre for Lassa fever. All these things put me in good stead to serve,” he recounted.
A Nursing Officer at the GPHA Clinic, Regina Afua Tedeku, also detailed the crucial role nurses have been playing in the fight against COVID-19 especially within Ghana’s port community.
“As nurses, we have been involved in intensive education of the public, the port community which is still ongoing. Also we let those who come to the clinic understand the reality of the virus so they take informed decision on how to protect themselves,” she said.
She advised that, considering the fact that priority in health service delivery currently is targeted towards COVID 19, and the high rate of transmission of the virus, it is important for clients to visit the clinic facility when it is absolutely necessary so that they don’t contract the disease.
“We are educating the general public that if you are not very sick, there is no need to come to the hospital, for example a slight headache that you might need rest or basic medication. If you just jump in and come to the clinic, you might come and pick the infection.”
Dr. Anaab said that this same advice should apply with patients with underlying chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes, and added that such patients should make use of phone calls in order to access medical advice for medication.
“Indeed, we don’t advise people to walk in and out of the hospital like they used to do without urgent need. If they have any concern, they should rather call us and we are ready to fill the prescription forms for them to pick up.”
The various representatives of Ghana’s port health services department affirmed their commitment to continue to play their roles to help safeguard Ghana’s port community from the importation and spread of the coronavirus.
Can you imagine having to be in close contact with the dreaded coronavirus on a daily basis?
Imagine the anxiety that could be associated with whether or not you have been infected with COVID-19, due the nature of your work? Imagine having to continually observe the strictest level of precautions against COVID-19 in your everyday life?
Unlike most people, the slightest mistake on your part does not only endanger yourself and immediate contacts but can severely jeopardize the outcomes of someone’s health diagnosis?
That is the life of Gideon Lantei Lamptey, a Senior Medical Laboratory Scientist at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority’s Clinic.
Gideon is 38 years, and married with three children, and a native of Jamestown British Accra and an alumnus of the School of Allied Sciences, University of Ghana, and the University of Liverpool, where he gained higher learning.
Gideon is a fellow of the West African Post-Graduate College of Medical Laboratory Scientists.
He has been at the very front of coronavirus related interactions since the outbreak of the pandemic.
On the average day, he plays a key role in the diagnosis of medical conditions at the clinic.
But now, he plays a much more crucial role in case management of COVID-19 at the GPHA Clinic.
Gideon has been pivotal in the screening of crew members during the arrival of vessels at the Tema Port in these times of preventing the importation and spread of the coronavirus.
“Desperate times calls for desperate measures. We know the port is also an entry point so we quickly have to do what had to be done, to ensure that our clients and staff who access the ports here are protected,” he said.
The medical laboratory scientist described the difficulty of participating in port activities but emphasized how he needed to adapt to enable him contribute efficiently to the fight against COVID-19 at the ports of Ghana, which is considered a major avenue to the importation of the disease.
“I had a short training from the harbour master. I was given basic tutoring on what to do in order to climb the monkey ladder. I had no swimming experience, so it was just sheer bravery.”
Gideon also been crucial in the sensitization campaign the Medical Services Department of GPHA embarked on, prior to and after the confirmation of positive COVID-19 cases in Ghana.
He revealed the challenges associated in terms of convincing patients to collaborate by offering the right information and assistance.
“There’s been the issue of stigma about the COVID-19. There are many times that we would even go to a contact house to go and take the sample, and immediately you leave there, the whole area would tag the one tested as having the virus,” he cited.
Gideon Lamptey has worked in his medical field for more than a decade, and has previously served in the Liberia treatment centre, during the Ebola pandemic.
Being a family man, Gideon is so keen on his personal protection and in addition to strictly following the health protocols, has already tested on 3 occasions to ensure he is not infected with the coronavirus.
On shore, the health and medical team of Ghana’s Ports and Harbours Authority are still leaving no stone unturned in the fight against the COVID-19.
The team has been playing a key role in the dispensation of health services during this period of the COVID-19.
Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has 4 main health facilities; the GPHA hospital in Takoradi, the main GPHA Clinic located in Tema community 2 and Clinic B located within the Port’s operational areas that handle first hand emergencies.
Additionally, GPHA recently completed its fully state of the art International Maritime Hospital with modern and top class medical equipment, wards and facilities and a helipad for emergency helicopter ambulance services.
All the medical and health facilities operate a 24 hour, 7 days a week services providing top class health care delivery to the port community, people of Tema, Greater Accra Region and Ghana as a whole.
The GPHA Clinic is not currently a designated treatment center for COVID-19, but continues to interface between generally sick patients, and their families, who could be potential carriers of the coronavirus.
Eye on Port gained exclusive coverage of the dealings within the GPHA Clinic associated with COVID-19.
The Clinic ensures that all clients, staff or visitors upon entrance of its facilities, observe hygiene protocols including, washing of hands thoroughly under running water with soap and the usage of alcohol-based hand sanitizers through automatic dispensers.
Special screening of all Patients on COVID-19 parameters is done to ascertain their status for effective isolation if the need be.
Isolated patients who either show symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19 infected patients, are taken to a holding area, which is restricted, where patients are detained and their samples taken.
According to Dr. Roland Dakpala, a Senior Medical Doctor at GPHA, supportive treatment is given to patients who demonstrate symptoms that require attention in order to stabilize them until test results are confirmed.
“If we support a case and we have moved the case to our holding area, we take a set of these medication and use it for management of the symptoms till the results come,” he said.
Gideon Lamptey, a Medical Laboratory Scientist took the team through the procedure for sample taking.
He hinted a high probability of expanding the holding area should the number of reported cases and other infectious diseases increase.
“We are planning towards the future, while COVID-19 is there. Diseases of public health concern always come in, so when you plan for that it is easier and it also helps us the health personnel,” he mentioned.
Dr. Roland Dakpala said all these procedures by health officials are done with strict adherence to the proper use of the Personal Protective Equipment.
He added that regular fumigation of the holding areas and other areas of contact in the clinic facility is done due to the contagious nature of COVID-19.
He emphasized that COVID-19 is not a myth so the general public should comply with all safety protocols announced by health authorities.
“We will continue to advise strongly that every citizen, still continues to take their infection prevention measures,” he encouraged.
The Matron Nurse of the GPHA Clinic, said even though they could not celebrate the Week-Long World Nursing Celebration, they will continue to play their key role in taking care of the general public against the COVID-19.
She also expressed worry over stigmatization against nurses and frontline officers during the period of the coronavirus pandemic and urged those who do so to desist from that.
Ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the latter part of 2019, many have related the global public health adversity to the Spanish flu also known as the 1918 pandemic.
History reports that the 1918 pandemic viral disease had strikingly similar symptoms to COVID-19 and nearly wiped the entire planet, killing over 50 million people, far more than people who died during the First World War and claimed an estimated 100,000 lives in present day Ghana.
Reports indicate that, the disease was introduced into the then Gold Coast by shipping along the Southern Coast and over land across the Northern Frontier.
Therefore, it was not surprising that many countries closed their border frontiers to human and vehicular traffic when COVID-19 broke.
“All our borders, by land, sea and air will be closed to human traffic for the next two weeks,” the President of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo stated in one of his addresses earlier in the year.
However, cargo traffic still remained opened.
“This closure will not apply to goods, supplies and cargo,” he continued.
International cargo trade is predominantly by sea, with the Ports of Ghana been responsible for over 80% international cargo trading.
With the history of the devastating record of the 1918 pandemic on hindsight, the Ports of Ghana have been extremely cautious ever since in its protective measures against being used as conduit to importing and spreading viral diseases of significant magnitude like Ebola and COVID-19.
In 2014, significant efforts were made by Ghana’s Ports and Harbours Authority to implement all the best strategies in order for Ghana not to record any cases of the Ebola.
The Port Authority equally undertook measures including training and sensitization as early as January and February, 2020 with both onshore and offshore restrictive measures to avoid any importation of COVID-19 cases although cargoes were being received through the Ports.
The Port authority also banned the receipt of cruise or passenger vessels among others.
It appears all these measures have paid off as no case has so far been transported through ships and the Ports to Ghana as of date.
The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Eddy Akrong, has called for implementers of the new Integrated Customs Management System to go back to the drawing board to resolve the challenges that have emerged out of the use of the ICUMS at the ports of Ghana, before fully implementing it.
“All we are saying is do not let us do this with all these problems inherent. Let us resolve them before we bring it to this end, where you have a greater number of throughput and bigger number of users,” he said.
Speaking on the Eye on Port panel on the Implementation of ICUMS and the Future of Ghana’s Single Window, the Head of GIFF, emphasized on the need for implementers to address the inefficiencies of the system which he termed as fundamental rather than teething.
“Mind you, Takoradi has started since April 1 and they are in the sixth week now. How much of this has been resolved? Because some of the problems that I have reported keep coming up. What are the assurances we can get that these are going to be resolved before it comes to Tema?” he complained.
He asserted that implementers should have applied the experience gained from the rush introduction of previous customs management reforms, and ensure they did not repeat themselves.
“You have seen what has happened before. You have the advantage of hindsight. So you have a shorter learning curve. We shouldn’t be seeing some of these problems. You should have an improved system.”
Eddy Akrong, lamented the sufferings of port users including freight forwarders who represent the trading public due to the unjustifiable delays associated with the new ICUMS.
“Are we going to take 21days, 14 days to do a declaration, which is not one particular instance?” he bemoaned.
“The trouble my people go through to call to find out what we are doing…is this how it is going to work over and over again? I will push all the complaints to the AC, Mr. Ohene,” he added.
He contended the argument that the challenges experienced during the implementation were operational rather than systemic.
According to him, the reluctance of stakeholders to exit the old systems is a demonstration of clear systemic issues with the ICUMS.
“My sister from Adonai Shipping started a declaration on the 14th of April but only able to pay duty on 8th May,” he cited.
“Are these just from us or someone trying to sabotage the system or these are systemic issues?” he asked.
The GIFF President criticized the inadequate level of training given to users of the system, and attributed that as a major cause of the difficulties faced by members of his outfit over the course of the implementation of ICUMS.
“All you see happening in Takoradi is as a result of only two hours of training in February and then they had to kick off from 1st April.
If this thing has started on April 28 in Tema…Even myself, if I put the laptop in front of me I wouldn’t even know where to start although I had attended the two-hour training on just 1 regime,” he expressed.
He also said the call centre allocated for addressing technical concerns of users of the ICUMS system is not an efficient one. “We have been asking to have a top notch call centre.
When you go to Takoradi, every single agent has visited the hotel where the technicians work. Why because of frustrations…you call, you don’t get through, you have to walk in there,” he reported.
The seasoned freight forwarder also disputed the one vendor narrative used to back the implementation of the UNIPASS Single Window system.
He said the previous system demonstrated an effective single window system as opposed to the information being peddled by Government officials.
Eddy Akrong, however, maintained that he is not interested in challenging policy directives but the outcomes of those policies are what his outfit has always been concerned about.
“We are not against government policy. We are not going to fight it. We just need the assurance that it would be done and done well.”
He said they will show commitment in using the new system once it promises efficient clearance of goods and services across the country’s ports.
An Assistant Commissioner of Customs and the Commander of Accra Collection, and the Chairman of the Implementation Team of ICUMS, Emmanuel Ohene has called for all stakeholders within the port clearance chain including the trading public to abandon their reluctant attitude towards the change in system in order to fully appreciate the benefits of the Integrated Customs Management System which according to him will achieve the government’s single window goals.
The Chairman of the ICUMs Implementation Team, attributed many of the challenges associated with the initial implementation of the new Integrated Customs Management System to the defiance of some stakeholders in the port clearance chain including members of the freight forwarding fraternity.
“Their concerns are real and we would be unrealistic to deploy this new system without taking into account the challenges that come along with it. But for goodness sake, from experience, the mentality we have had deploying this, is that it won’t work and this is what I would like to disabuse their minds from” the Accra Collection Sector Commander asserted.
Although Mr. Ohene admitted to what in his view are certain teething challenges on the part of ICUMS, he maintained that many of the challenges experienced during its implementation were more operational on the part of other stakeholders in the clearance chain rather than systemic.
“It came to our notice that some shipping lines who had been instructed to upload their manifest in ICUMS had intentionally gone ahead to upload the manifest in the GCMS. We had to revert to the practice where we directed that because the manifest could not be seen in the ICUMS, they should not go ahead and process the payment receipt and BOE by email to terminal operators for the boxes to be delivered,” he cited.
Carlos Ahenkorah, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, also a panellist on the program, corroborated Emmanuel Ohene's position and blamed shipping lines and port terminals for failing to plug into the new system as the main reason of the current inefficiencies that plagued the implementation of ICUMS.
“No matter how good the system is they are not interested. So as I speak, not all the shipping agents have configured their system into the UNIPASS. MPS which operates about 70% of the boxes in the port was not ready to come on board UNIPASS for the system to work,” he added.
Yet, the Deputy Minister in Charge of Trade, insisted on government’s resolve to continue the implementation of the ICUMS, to achieve its Single Window objective, and said it would be wise for all stakeholders to immediately buy into the project.
The Head of the Implementation Team of ICUMS, described the frustrations of the trading public especially the freight forwarding fraternity as exaggerated, and said the system is not as dysfunctional as being speculated, quoting that, as of Sunday, 10th May 2020, successful clearance of about 350+ declarations have been done through the ICUMS with government having collected significant revenues in Takoradi alone.
“Apart from the processing of exports declarations, we have not deployed the UNIPASS in Tema. But we have collected revenue on UNIPASS in Takoradi.”
He continued to praise the UNIPASS system which he described as superior with a more straightforward process flow that would be convenient to users, and cited that that was a fact appreciated by many freight forwarders during the introduction of the ICUMS systems.
“The Freight forwarders who have had the benefits of appreciating the ICUMS in its entirety through the training, are satisfied with some saying they wished it had started yesterday,” he revealed.
The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight forwarders, Eddy Akrong, on the same program, lamented the sufferings of port users including freight forwarders who represent the trading public due to the unjustifiable delays associated with the new ICUMS.
“Are we going to take 21days, 14 days to do a declaration, which is not one particular instance?” he bemoaned.
He criticized the inadequate level of training given to users of the system, and attributed that as a major cause of the difficulties faced by members of his outfit over the course of the implementation of ICUMS.
“What you see in Takoradi is as a result of two hours of training in February and they had to kick off on 1st April. If this had started on April 28 in Tema…even if I do this myself. If I put the laptop in front of me I wouldn’t know where to start although I had attended the two-hour training on one regime. This is what is still happening,” he disclosed.
Eddy Akrong maintained that he is not interested in challenging policy directives but the outcomes of those policies are what his outfit has always been concerned about.
He then emphasized on the need for implementers to go back to the drawing board to address the inefficiencies of the system which he termed as fundamental rather than teething.
“What I am saying now is that if these are teething issues, so be it. But you have seen what has happened before and you have the advantage of hindsight of the things that have happened, you have a shorter learning curve, we shouldn’t be seeing these things. So please, all we are saying is do not let us do this with all the problems inherent. Let us resolve them,” he stressed.
The Assistant Commissioner, Emmanuel Ohene, admitted that the current challenges had made it obvious for the need to postpone sole implementation of the ICUMS, and a parallel operation with the old vendors will be used, as more consultation with stakeholders ought to be done.
The President of IMANI Ghana, Franklin Cudjoe, has called for government to support its claim that the UNIPASS technology would render an improved integrated customs management system with detailed analytical data from feasibility studies.
Speaking on an Eye on Port panel discussion on the Implementation of ICUMS, and the Future of Ghana’s Single Window Goals, Franklin Cudjoe said such report would enable his outfit, and the general public assess for themselves how reliable the new customs management system is for the country’s border and port trading activities.
“Is there a feasibility report? Is there a revenue assurance projection that has been made? Were these things factored, for us to understand what was going to change if these existing vendors were kicked out? I can comfortably say that we never saw any existing report. Not a single one,” he expressed.
Franklin Cudjoe, while also demanding some KPI’s said he is much concerned as to how the UNIPASS clearance system is able to facilitate the quick clearance of goods at the ports.
“Is UNIPASS going to be faster and at what rate? These are key KPI’s that we need to know. It shouldn’t just be because you said we should have faith in the system. We need key performance indicators to know whether it would be able to deliver goods beyond the half-a-day in some instances that the existing systems are delivering,” he quizzed.
The Leader of the policy think-tank organisation, said failure from the Ministry of Trade in particular to respond to his outfit’s letters for the feasibility report to back UNIPASS, has made it impossible for IMANI Ghana to vouch for the system more so now that the implementation of the new Integrated Customs Management System has been riddled with a lot of inefficiencies at the country’s ports.
“Fruits of policy illogicality can only be seen when there are challenges as monumental as what we saw during the time UNIPASS was asked to operate and others were asked to shut down,” he opined.
But the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, on the same program, stated that even though such analysis had been conducted, he does not find it necessary to submit such information to IMANI Ghana.
“We have a report but we are not obliged in the circumstances to release every report that government gets on our policies to anybody,” he rebuffed.
“We would not just get up and do things without doing the necessary checks and balances. Maybe what you’re saying is that, when we do our work we should bring it to IMANI to adjudge or assess what we have done before we move on? That is very wrong, Franklin,” he added.
Franklin Cudjoe also questioned government’s position that the ICUMS is a far superior system that would better the trade facilitation and revenue mobilization capacity of Ghana, only for the new Customs Management System to demonstrate the opposite during its initial implementation stages.
He opined that it’s even more fascinating that the GRA had to return to rest on the shoulders of the existing service providers for support while they address the inefficiencies associated with the new ICUMS.
“If I were Trade Minister, I should be worried that I would have to go back to the vendors I so vehemently accused to now hold fort for us,” he said.
Franklin Cudjoe also asserted that upon investigations, it turns out the UNIPASS or ICUMS would cost more to the trading public than the previous service providers, West Blue and GCNet.
“My understanding is that the existing fees of the GCNet’s 0.40 of FOB and West Blue 0.28 of CIF which combines to 0.68 whereas UNIPASS is 0.75.”
The Deputy Minister in Charge of Trade, Carlos Ahenkorah, however refuted the assertions made by the IMANI President, and explained why it would cost less for Ghanaians when using UNIPASS in comparison to the earlier systems.
“West Blue is taking 1 percent and GCNet is taking 0.40 making 1.4. As the businessman, you would like to take the UNIPASS because it is 0.75 which is less,” he argued.
He further described the demonstration of low faith in the new Integrated Customs Management System as premature, insisting that the current challenges associated with the ICUMS are commonplace in projects of that nature.
Carlos Ahenkorah maintained that the new ICUMS would enable government reach its single window objectives with respect to increased trade facilitation and revenue mobilization.
The IMANI Boss, however, urged government to exercise circumspection in its approach of what he described as prematurely introducing a seemingly flawed system, which he thinks would result in severe financial ramifications and impediments to trade facilitation for Ghana.
A Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, has maintained the resolve of government to implement the new Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) to enable the country achieve its single window objectives stating a 30% projected revenue increase when ICUMS is fully deployed.
“UNIPASS from the word go is going to improve our revenue collection by 30%,” he said.
Speaking on an Eye on Port discussion on the Implementation of ICUMS, and the Future of Ghana’s Single Window Goals, the Deputy Minister in charge of Trade argued that the existing vendors of GCNet and West Blue, do not only defy the country’s objective of a single window, but were responsible for some revenue losses, upon the assessment of government.
“Because the two systems were not configured to meet each other’s’ aspirations there were loopholes that people could take advantage of, and that is a fact,” he stated.
He also cited that “a car clearance came with a CCVR from Customs which made people pay Ghana cedis 5,000 for a brand new range rover.”
This according to the Deputy Minister, informed the need for government to introduce, a tried and tested UNIPASS technology used by Korea customs in order to achieve its trade facilitation and revenue mobilization ambitions.
“The UNIPASS system has no challenges. This is not the first place that UNIPASS is deployed. UNIPASS Korea should tell you that Korea has been using it for many years. Aside that there are about 5 other countries in Africa that are using it,” he indicated.
Carlos Ahenkorah explained why the UNIPASS System would portray the intended vision of Government’s single window objectives.
“You have a system today that is shortening the process. You open one front end, you do your UCR, you will do your IDF, you input your declaration, customs come back with the duty you have to pay, you pay that duty online, and once shipping lines are paid, you can go pick up your cargo.”
He also disclosed that the problem of compliance which was not fully eliminated by the existing customs management system has been resolved by the new Integrated Customs Management System.
Emmanuel Ohene, an Assistant Commissioner of Customs, and the Head of the Implementation team of ICUMS, on the same program, also listed some benefits the ICUMS would bring to the sea trade including improved risk management and valuation.
“Another feature you can talk about is the enhanced risk management now has a feedback into the ICUMS so when an infraction is detected, a remedial measure is easily dispensed as a result. These are some of the initiatives that you did not find in the existing setup where we had difficulty getting infractions reported back.”
The Assistant Commissioner, who is the Sector Commander of the Accra Collection of Customs, also said the new ICUMS is more user friendly that has improved the benchmarks set by the existing vendors.
“The current vendors have developed some benchmarks that are worthy of mention. But I can tell you that the process flow of ICUMS is quite straightforward. You submit your documents and there is no need for you to have a classification and valuation report. Immediately after the processing of the valuation, you have an assessment.”
He continued, “Now this system has created a port community which hitherto did not exist. In this Port Community, you have terminal operators, the ICD’s, the Shipping Lines all networked in one community where one mistake of the other can easily be detected and corrected at the level of the community.”
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry who also doubles as the Member of Parliament for Tema West also explained why the UNIPASS system would save the trading public as well as government more money in comparison to the combination of the existing vendors, GCNet and West Blue.
“This is because the more you have more people on the clearance chain, the more expensive it becomes…At the back end of all this, the ordinary user would be 0.75 %. Because ordinarily they were paying 1% to West blue and 0.40% to GCNet.”
Carlos Ahenkorah appealed to the general trading public to buy into the UNIPASS system and give it time to prove its value with regards to increased trade facilitation and revenue mobilization of the country.
“They should give it a little bit of time, and test this system so that after six months, they can give their opinion,” he said.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority continues to contribute its quota to areas within the Tema community to fight against the spread of the COVID-19.
GPHA has donated some veronica buckets to members of the fishing community who operate in the fishing harbour for them to have a decent handwashing facility for use in these times of coronavirus prevention.
The Ag. General Manager of the Tema Fishing Harbour, Ing. Kwadwo Asamoah, donating the items on behalf of the Port Authority encouraged members of the fishing community to adhere to the health protocols in their activities, due to the vulnerability their nature of work presents.
“Do ensure that they always use them to wash their hands to prevent the spread of covid-19 in the area,” he said.
The leadership of the fishing community promised to put the veronica buckets to good use while they observe all health protocols.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has taken delivery of an innovative leg-operated hand washer from the Fruit Terminal Company as part of the Company’s measures to support prevention the spread of COVID-19 in the Port of Tema.
World over, many innovations have emerged to enable societies tackle the current crisis of the coronavirus.
To reduce the likelihood of contaminations in the Port space, the Fruit Terminal Company Limited has built a hi-tech equipment in- house to enhance post users’ ability to wash their hands without touching knobs.
A technical supervisor at the Fruit Terminal, Patrick Ato Koomson, indicated that his outfit finds it critical for the port environment to augment its preventive measures, hence, the contribution of the Fruit Terminal Company.
“The Port has a lot of people entering so once we want to avoid contamination through the hands, we devised this system for the leg to dispense both the soap and water,” he said.
The Port of Tema Security Manager, Colonel William Kwabiah who received the leg-operated hand washing apparatus on behalf the Port Authority, stated how it would improve the protection of port users against the coronavirus disease.
“It was a game changer for us because the security department is at the forefront of all port users and with this leg operated machine it ensures that contact is limited,” he said.
The Metropolitan Chief Executive of Tema, Felix Nii Anang-La has stormed the Port Tema, to announce that users of the Port of Tema who refuse to wear the mandatory protective nose masks upon their visit and stay in the port, would not be entertained.
“The message we have for you is simple. No mask no entry,” he warned.
The Mayor of Tema said this is in efforts to ensure that the escalated numbers of COVID-19 cases in Tema over the past week doesn’t exacerbate.
And with the Port being a major meeting point of business for many people in the Tema Metropolis, it is a critical place to strictly enforce the mandatory wearing of nose masks directive towards the prevention of the spread of the virus.
“When they say they are closing the port because some people are failing to adhere to the directive by His Excellency the President… we will not even allow that time to come. So if you try to mess us up we get you out,” he cautioned.
Felix Nii Anang-La visited the Tema Customs Long room which houses some customs offices as well as the Ghana Commercial Bank and Ecobank offices near the long room first, to conscientize the many freight forwarders who gather in that area to do business.
He then called at the Golden Jubilee Terminal of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and then later to the MPS’ Terminal 3, being considered as the areas with the most human traffic.
The Tema Sector Commander of Customs, Joseph Adu Kyei during the assembly, encouraged the port users, especially the members of the freight forwarding fraternity, to comply with the Government’s directive for the collective safety of the Port Community.
“We have to go and work but we also have to protect ourselves so if you want to go out please wear the nose mask. Today is the beginning of that enforcement,” he said.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has waived its storage and rent charges for the period of 30th March to 19th April, 2020 for cargoes that are yet to be cleared from the ports.
In a statement to importers and exporters which was signed by the Director-General of GPHA, Michael Luguje, the Authority said "all storage and rent charges considered as time-related penalties in the cargo clearance process at its Golden Jubilee and Transit terminals resulting from the COVID induced restrictions on movements of persons have been waived."
The statement said the offer of rent free dates will end by close of work on Sunday 31st May 2020.
So far, some shipping lines like Grimaldi, PIL and Maersk Line have also waived demurrage charges for the period between 30th March to 19th April, 2020.
This development follows a fruitful engagement between the Ghana Shippers Authority, and all the related organisations including the shipping companies and their umbrella-body, the Ship Owners and Agents Association (SOAAG).
The Meridian Ports Services (MPS), Eye on Port, gathers has also waived some rent and storage charges for importers and exporters.
Meanwhile, some freight forwarders have commended the Port Authority, Terminals and shipping lines for waiving rent and demurrage charges as directed by the Minister of Transport through the Ghana Shippers Authority.
They believe this will go a long way to cushion importers and exporters from hardships that came about as a result of the lockdown.
“I was happy when I heard that GPHA has absorbed the charges,” Samson Asaki, the Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association said.
They, however, called on other terminals and shipping lines who are yet to waive demurrage and rent charges to do so in the interest of their customers.
“We are just pleading with the shipping lines. They should take out the demurrage for these few days and comply with the Government’s directives for all of us to do business,” Philip Badu Mensah, a freight forwarder appealed.
Government has officially handed over the site for the construction of the Jamestown Fishing Harbor to the Chinese engineers and contractors.
The construction is expected to be completed in 32 months.
The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo Addo cut sod on December 5, 2018 for the project which had been on the drawing board since 1965 where he stated that even though many sod cutting ceremonies have been held by previous governments, he will ensure actual work on the grounds starts for the completion of the harbour.
The President also indicated that the construction of the harbour is being made possible by a $60 million grant by the Chinese Government.
The Deputy Minister of Transport, Daniel Titus-Glover during the handing over ceremony, revealed that the modern fishing harbour would not only constitute the fish landing sites but also include cold store facilities, market areas and other social amenities to holistically improve the livelihoods of the constituents of Odododiodioo, and Ghana at large.
“There was the need to look at, after the project is done, the storage of the fish, the processing of the fish, the marketing and distribution of the fish altogether. There is going to have a cold store, a market area and a crèche for children of these women who trade at the port,” he expressed.
He said in the same vein Government has sought to provide infrastructural development to the area, constituents of the community should endeavour to cooperate with Authorities for the successful completion of the project.
“I have appealed to them to cooperate with the contractors. We have a whole human resource of labor in the Odododiodioo Constituency so they should engage them,” he added.
Following delays in cargo clearance at the Port of Tema as a result of the new Integrated Customs Management System and the shutting down of the GCNet and West Blue’s systems at ports, the leadership of the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Trade took to the Tema port to assess the severity of the issue and come up with solutions that would mitigate the current challenges.
The delegation comprised, the Minister of Trade and Industry, Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, a Deputy Minister of Finance, Kwaku Kwarteng, the Commissioner General of GRA, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, the Commissioner of Customs, Rtd Colonel Kwadwo Damoah, officials from the office of the Senior Minister and some officials of Ghana Link Services.
The entourage first met with the management of the Meridian Port Services, then it was followed by a meeting with the shipping lines.
The delegation then moved to meet with the leadership of the various freight forwarding companies and then finally met with the Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and his senior management staff.
The Minister of Trade, Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng who led the discussions assured the stakeholder community of government's support to improving trade facilitation and revenue generation through the sea trade.
The delegation discussed existing challenges associated with the new Customs Management System and the Port clearance chain in general.
The leadership and management of the various agencies expressed gratitude to the Minister of Trade for offering a listening ear to issues bothering the port industry.
On Tuesday, 28th May 2020, the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), commenced the deployment of the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS) at all frontier stations and ports of entry in Ghana.
This was in line with the implementation plan for the eventual roll-out of ICUMS nationwide after the deployment of the second phase, which commenced at the Takoradi Port on April 1, 2020.
However, the new system was fraught with challenges rendering inability of port users to undertake usual clearance processes for about two (2) working days.
To contribute to the alleviation of the socio-economic impact of restrictions associated with COVID-19 prevention, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has donated some food items to the traditional councils of Nungua, Tema and Kpone, for onward distribution to those in need within these communities.
In view of the impact of the recent restrictions in movements of persons observed in some parts of the country, including economic hardship for those who rely on daily income for survival, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority sought to immediately help bring relief to people who reside under the Kpone, Tema and Nungua traditional communities who have contributed to creating an enabling environment for the port community to thrive.
Presenting the items, the Principal Marketing and Corporate Affairs Officer at GPHA, Samuel Agyemang said the port authority believes the items will go a long way to relieve the people from some level of suffering.
“The Port Authority understands the level of difficulty some people are going through so we decided to hand over this token for you to give to the people you feel or know are in need of such items.”
The representatives of the various traditional councils, expressed gratitude to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority for coming to their aid, and promised to evenly distribute the goods to the needy.
“We say thank you and we are very grateful to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority for coming to our aid in these times of need,” Nii Tetteh Ottoo II, the Chief of Kpone Traditional Area expressed.
“We shall make sure we give these items to the needy,” the Shipi and Stool Secretary of the Nungua Traditional Council, Nii Armarh Sompunu II added.
The Chief of East Legon, Nii Affotey Srawa II, on behalf of the Nungua Mantse King Prof. Odaifio Welentsi III also expressed enormous gratitude to the Management of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and urged other institutions to emulate the good deeds of the G.P.H.A.
The Traditional Authorities pleaded with government and other corporate entities to contribute their quota in helping restore the socio-economic survival of Ghanaians.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Free Zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi, has revealed that some free zone companies have been negatively impacted by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said, as a result, the Ministry of Trade and Industry will introduce a more sustainable package to that can be harnessed by industries in the Free Zones enclave of Ghana to cushion them in their businesses in this period of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Because of the lockdown situation we had in the country, most of the companies that operate within the free zones enclave were asked to stop producing and manufacturing.”
He explained that the companies who operate in the Free Zones enclave are mostly multi-nationals whose capital base are quite huge and therefore requires immense commitment from government in order to support them with stimulus packages.
“Businesses under the free zones are not small businesses but capital intensive. Therefore, they may not need monies 200, 000 to cushion them in business. They may need something huge. I’ve been told that the Ministry is trying to come out with a new package to cater for that.”
He added that the Free Zones Authority has also become more flexible in some of its administrative conventions to protect the survival of Free Zone companies during the current circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Head of the Free Zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi, revealed that his outfit is close to meeting its 5-year plan of building up a free zones sector that is the best in Africa where many investors including automobile companies will establish in as well as providing the infrastructural support needed to facilitate its establishment.
“We expect the free zones to be one of the best in Africa if not the best like Tanger Med. We are very close. We want to have a free zones enclave where we have automobile companies established. And where we have a good transportation system that caters for these things that the companies would produce so we can have very free means of exporting them.”
Speaking as a co-panelist on Eye on Port on the State of Ghana’s Export and Free Zone Sectors Amid COVID-19 Beleaguered Global Economy the Free Zones Boss said current measures being undertaken by his outfit are geared towards multiplying the state’s revenue from this sector with a minimum expectation of 4 Billion dollars gained in exports.
“We are trying to get to a stage, in the next five years, where we would be able to do minimum 4 billion dollars in export.”
Mr. Baafi disclosed that in the light of achieving this goal, it collaborates with the Tanger Med Free Zone to learn and emulate their successes chalked operating a similar economic model.
“We have a very good MOU in place, to have staff of our company to take internships every year and they also give us technical support. They also refer investors to us.”
Indigenous Participation in Free Zones
The CEO of the Ghana Free Zones Authority emphasized that he has been championing the drive for more indigenous companies to establish in the free zones and called for Ghanaians who can meet the requirements to establish within the free zone enclaves.
“We have realized that most of the free zones doing well are multinational companies so we have decided to encourage local investors to do business in the free zones. And we are also encouraging the local companies in the free zones to do more as we are giving them some advantages over their competitors,” he said.
He added, “you have to be ready to export at least 70% of your produce outside the country. You have to be incorporated in Ghana, you have to be very strong in terms of your finances, you have to get a good location for business and get an environmental certificate from EPA.”
The Free Zones Boss said to encourage youth participation in the free zones, young entrepreneurs worldwide are being groomed to develop the needed know-how to thrive in the free zone business, and this is being done in Ghana.
“We want young entrepreneurs to bring life into the concept. We are setting up incubation units to groom young free zones entrepreneurs,” The Freeze Zones Boss revealed.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Exports Promotion Authority, Dr. Afua Asabea Asare, has indicated that the Exports Promotion Authority has diversified its strategies towards the objective of ensuring Ghana taps into its full export potential.
Speaking as a co-panellist on the Eye on Port program on the State of Ghana’s Export and Free Zone Sectors amid COVID-19 Beleaguered Global Economy, the head of GEPA revealed that the export of the services sector is one that her outfit is currently seriously pursuing.
“We have introduced the services department at Ghana Exports Promotion Authority where we are diversifying into various areas to add to what we usually do. We started looking at the health sector- how to sell our health services on the international market especially the West African sub region. We are exporting our education sector. We are partnering with Tourism Authority and so on” The GEPA CEO enumerated.
She revealed that prior to the obstacles created by the COVID-19 pandemic, gains had been made to export Ghanaian goods and services to other African countries as demand in the region has increased.
“We had a fair in Nigeria to introduce universities in Ghana. A lot of Nigerians come to school here, but we wanted to institutionalise it and make them know that we even have more universities. If there hadn’t been what is happening now, we had it on our radar to go to Ethiopia and Rwanda as well. We are concentrating more on Africa considering also that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area is established here,” she expressed.
The GEPA CEO also disclosed that her outfit has liaised with the Ghana Tourism Authority to revamp certain areas in the country where some craft is ongoing so that they can help export such products.
“We went to Northern Region and we have been working to improve the work of the ladies who make the Bolgatanga baskets. In Aburi, we have also done some work with the Aburi Craft Village and work is ongoing as we speak,” Dr. Afua Asabea Asare touted.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Exports Promotion Authority, Dr. Afua Asabea Asare, has revealed that due to some interventions the Exports Promotion Authority has embarked on, which includes the distribution of cashew seedlings, and pineapple suckers to farmers, Ghana has seen monumental increase of 10% in Non-Traditional Exports figures between 2017 and 2019.
Speaking on the Eye on Port program the head of GEPA attributed the successes choked so far in export not only to the work of her outfit, but also to the Ministry of Agriculture in its flagship Planting for Food and Jobs program which improved the export figures for cashew in particular.
“Cashew just went up by 23% and it is just because of the interventions that were made by the Ministry of Agric with the support of GEPA.”
She however lamented the raw state cashew is being exported and called for government’s intervention that would introduce regulations to ensure cashew and many other products of great value are processed to even add more value before exportation.
“We would make our case before government. We have about twelve (12) factories in Ghana processing cashew but now it is about only two (2) or three (3). They have all been closed down because the cashew is taken away before they can even be purchased to be processed in Ghana which is very bad for us,” she bemoaned.
The GEPA boss said, with the current industrialization agenda by government, it has been admirable to see young entrepreneurs muster enthusiasm for export oriented production.
“It is quite interesting how a lot of our young people are those coming up with these novel interesting products,” she expressed.
The CEO of GEPA, however bemoaned the inadequate funding available for young entrepreneurs to realize their ambitions to grow their businesses that would go a long way to contribute to national development in the export sector.
She added that even though her outfit has worked closely with both the Export and Import (i.e. EXIM) Bank and some other private banks to grow export base of the country, inadequate financing within the export sector still remain a major bane.
“EXIM is the bank that supports exports and imports. Sometimes they support us but everybody goes to EXIM so they are overwhelmed sometimes, and they can’t do everything but they try as much as possible to support the export industry as we do our bits as well,” she explained.
She praised the President of the republic's strategic reactions to the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses, pointing out the stimulus package offered to Small and Medium Enterprise where she revealed her outfit is contributing to help coordinate its dissemination to some export producing enterprises which may have suffered as from the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The President in his own wisdom has released some funds to help SMEs where most of our people are in. So hopefully they’re all going to be cushioned a bit. We are working with NBSSI to ensure that our small businesses enjoy from this.”
The GEPA Boss expressed optimism. Meeting Market Standards Dr. Afua Asabea Asare however emphasized the need for Ghanaian entrepreneurs especially the young ones looking to export, to register with GEPA who would not only apply their expertise in marketing products overseas but will provide them with the right industry standards to help them penetrate the international market.
“We are out there telling them that they should come for us to support them. Some are coming, others wait when they go out there and they fail, they come to us. We don’t want them to fail before they come looking for us,” she asserted.
She revealed that her outfit is collaborating with the Food and Drugs Authority and the Ghana Standards Authority to improve the education on preservation and packaging of products to meet international requirements.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Exports Promotion Authority, Dr. Afua Asabea Asare has assured of her outfit’s collaboration with the Ghana Free Zones Authority to achieve its expected target of 4 Billion dollars gained in exports.
Speaking on Eye on Port's live panel discussion on the State of Ghana’s Export and Free Zone Sectors Amid COVID-19 Beleaguered Global Economy, the GEPA CEO affirmed her outfit's support to the Ghana Free Zones Authority in achieving its ambitious over 4-billion-dollar export revenue target within the next five (5) years as proclaimed by its Chief Executive Officer, Michael Okyere Baafi who revealed on the same program, “We are trying to get to a stage, in the next five years, where we would be able to do minimum 4 billion dollars in export.”
The Free Zones Boss revealed that his outfit is close to meeting its 5-year plan of building up a free zones sector that is the best in Africa where many investors including automobile companies will be established as well as providing the infrastructural support needed to facilitate its set up.
The CEO of the Ghana Exports Promotion Authority, Dr. Afua Asabea Asare emphasized the critical role her outfit would play in achieving the target set by the Ghana Free Zones Authority and implored the Free Zones Authority to collaborate with her outfit in aligning with the National Export Development Strategy that has been put together as a blueprint to effectively utilize the country’s export potential.
“That is why we have to work together to achieve the NEDS, (The National Export Development Strategy) that we have put together. Not just us but the stakeholders, including Free Zones are part of it. We need to collaborate to achieve that 4 Billion Dollars he is talking about,” she urged.
The Head of GEPA disclosed the tremendous growth non-traditional exports have experienced over recent years, citing the 23% increase in exports of cashew and attributed such success not only to the work of her outfit, but also to the Ministry of Agric in its flagship Planting for Food and Jobs program.
“Cashew just went up by 23% and it is just because of the interventions that were made by the Ministry of Agric with the support of GEPA.”
She however lamented the raw state cashew is being exported and called for government intervention that would introduce regulations to ensure cashew and many other products of great value are processed to even add more value before exportation.
“We would make our case before government. We had about 12 factories in Ghana processing cashew but now it is about only two or three left. They have all been closed down because the cashew is taken away before they can even be purchased to be processed in Ghana which is very bad for us,” she bemoaned.
The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana Free Zones Authority, Michael Okyere Baafi said, one of the key areas the Free Zones Authority is looking to attract more investments for is the food production sector due to the riches in food resource at the country’s disposal that has been further boosted by interventions by government.
“There’s a need for our country to start attracting huge investments in that area. Last year we focused on pharmaceuticals. This year we are looking at food."
Mr. Okyere Baafi made positive remarks about the recent gains made from exports of cashew and expressed enthusiasm to engage companies in that area of production in order to add value to the product that has become one of Ghana’s leading export resource.
“Some free zone companies already work with cashew. And they work with Ghana Exports Promotion Authority. They also take advantage of the system. Now, cashew is becoming a very good business to do in Ghana here. I know a lot of young people who want to venture in it and we have to take advantage and encourage them” the Free Zones Boss espoused.
A Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, has called on Ghanaian industries to expedite production in order not only to be buoyant but also contribute to Ghana’s trade sustenance in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic.
“I’d take advantage of this program and encourage our exporters to double their production and look for outside supplies and ship their cargoes outside. Those who are currently not into production can see how they can enter into it as quickly as possible. This is because where we import our cargoes from are on lockdown, so they cannot go to the factory and produce. Now, they would rely on you and accept your product,” he explained.
Speaking on Eye on Port live on national television on Assessing the National and Continental Trade Agenda Before and After the COVID-19 pandemic, the deputy Minister of Trade and Industry who doubles as the Member of Parliament for Tema West, encouraged local industries to take advantage of the more favourable situation in Ghana, to shore up production of locally manufactured products in order to make up for trade deficits incurred as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We believe that this is the time that Africa or Ghana for that matter, should reconfigure its direction to meet post-COVID improvement of our economy. And if we are able to hold on to our own, before the larger economies, are able to overtake COVID, and come back into the limelight, we would have shot forward long before they come,” he said.
Impact of COVID-19
The Deputy Minister who is in charge of Trade, hinted that the aggressive industrialization agenda of government, including the 1D1F program aimed at increasing Ghana’s export base, promote employment, and decrease rural-urban migration among others which were visibly yielding results has significantly suffered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If companies don’t work, people don’t get paid salaries, government is deprived of taxes, traders don’t get goods to sell…everybody is unhappy. The seizure in the supply chain, some of the people in this chain would suffer the consequences and that is what I’m talking about.”
Carlos Ahenkorah commended the President of Ghana, for being visionary in his handling of the coronavirus, saying while he does his best to ensure health security, he also takes decisions that ensure continuity of economic activities.
“He has handled this COVID-19 situation by attacking the disease itself with series of regulations and guidelines for us to follow. We started way before a lot of the mature economies even realised that they need to start. Today as we speak industry is working again. If we are able to push more people into production, we stand a bigger chance of us being able to export our goods to the outside world,” he articulated.
Supporting Local Industries
He said government has made efforts to salvage the magnitude of the setbacks suffered, by offering stimulus packages to industries in addition to the nationwide reliefs on the cost of utilities.
“We are asking the financial institutions to commit about GHC3BN for private sector assistance. That notwithstanding, there is 600M that we are going to roll out for SMEs as stimulus package,” he listed.
He added that in combating the coronavirus, the Ministry of Trade has engaged local entities to produce Personal Productive Equipment, which aside the health benefits, promises a lot of economic gains.
“We are supposed to produce about 3.6 million nose masks here in Ghana. As I speak to you, they are almost nearing half of this production,” he revealed.
The Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry, however noted that his outfit would soon enrol policies that would ensure priority is given to made-in-Ghana products, especially in the retail market to reduce Ghana’s reliance on import.
“We are going to come up with a policy or even a legislation, to ensure that people who are selling locally in Ghana, will find a way to stock some goods that are made in Ghana.”
He encouraged local producers to also do enough to ensure their products are desirable on the market.
“If our local manufacturers are able to up their game, and come up with products that would meet that standard that they expect, I’m sure that even post-COVID we would not need to import much,” he said.
On the African scene, Carlos Ahenkorah said he is eager for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to commence as soon as possible, and opined that, he would like for implementation to be on schedule on the July 1st.
“If you ask my opinion, I would say that, I still stick to 1st July. Something has to happen, Africa has to commence trading and I want this thing to happen this year.”
He confirmed that the Nigerian borders remained closed to the movement of goods even before the current COVID-19 crisis, indicating that the sea ports had become the available entry point for goods from other countries.
The Deputy Minister confirmed that the majority of truckers that were stuck at the Nigerian border have returned to Ghana following the President’s call for their return.
He stated that with the commencement of the AfCFTA, such impediments to trade would cease citing the high level of commitment guaranteed by member states.
“Once we commence the AfCFTA, those kind of closure of borders to neighbouring countries to come in and out with cargo is going to be a thing of the past. The AfCFTA frowns upon things like this,” he noted.
Carlos Ahenkorah encouraged citizens to exercise patience during this period of the pandemic, as it may take at best 3 years for Ghana to recover fully from the setbacks that would be suffered to the pandemic.
“It might take this economy three years to recover, and this is very generous. The larger economies, the USA and UK for example, are going to take close to 7-8years to come to life,” he assessed.
Shipping Lines Helping Government
He added his voice to calls for shipping lines to waive demurrages charges at the country’s ports due to the 3weeks lockdown announced by the President.
“They are operating within the remits of this country. If there is an emergency situation, and the president comes out to solicit for some sort of remedial assistance for the citizenry, I think it is incumbent on them, to meet the government halfway,” he expressed.
Commenting on the new Integrated Customs Management System that has been rolled out by the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Deputy Minister expressed the view that it would portray an improved form of the paperless system.
Carlos Ahenkorah emphasized that although the system like any other customs management system, in its beginning stages would have teething issues, users can still have confidence in the reliability of the new system as it would improve trade facilitation.
“If we roll out ICUMS, it is going to the fastest that you ever see in Africa, because now as we speak, compliance is virtual, so I get my UCR, develop my IDF and put it in," he praised.
Formerly, you have to develop your IDF with GCNet, and you do the UCR with West Blue,” he added.
The CEO of International Maritime Hospital, Dr. Sylvester Oppong has advised the general public that the lifting of restrictions on movements of persons by the President does not mean the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“The lift on restrictions doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. In fact, we are virtually starting,” he cautioned.
Dr. Sylvester Oppong gave the advice when Be Nice catering services, a catering company in Tema Community 5 presented packed prepared meals and water worth some Gh¢2,200 to the frontline staff of the International Maritime Hospital who have been breaking their backs to provide quality healthcare for the public in this period of the coronavirus pandemic.
All over the world, frontline workers are being celebrated for their immense contribution to providing healthcare during this period of coronavirus pandemic.
CEO of Be Nice Catering Services, Nana Afia Anane Asamoah described the gesture as the company's widows might towards the International Maritime Hospital’s fight against the Covid-19.
She believes this will reduce the man hours spent by frontline staff to buy food outside the hospital facility and nourish them to carry on their duties.
The CEO of IMaH expressed gratitude to Be Nice Catering Services for the gesture and welcome any support to the International Maritime Hospital and its frontline workers in these difficult times of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
“Throughout the country, we thank all the organizations and companies that have been helping the government tackle this COVID-19,” he added.
He therefore advised the public to stay home as an important measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Some freight forwarders in Tema are fuming with rage over the decision by banks who receive payment of duties at the Port of Tema to close some of their branches and also operate with limited staff.
Long queues characterised the Tema long room GCB bank and Ecobank which are the only banks accepting payment of duties with limited staff at the Port.
The queues made it difficult for the freight forwarders to observe the social distancing policy by government which is a precautionary measure to the fight against Covid-19.
Checks by Eye on Port revealed that the GCB banks and Ecobank branches at the Golden Jubilee Terminal and Safebond Terminal were closed.
Another factor which is also contributing to the long queues is the fact that the Shipping Lines were refusing to accept cash payments in their various offices which hitherto was not so.
Speaking in an interview with Eye on Port, some of the frustrated freight forwarders said they have been standing in the queue under the scorching sun for a very long time.
They also feared that the decision by the banks to open few branches and operate with limited staff will impede the speed at which clearance of goods could be done.
Samuel Okine, a freight forwarder expressed worry that any delays in the clearance of their goods could lead to extra cost such as rents and demurrages.
The Tema Sector Commander of the Customs division of GRA, Joseph Adu-Kyei described the incident as unfortunate and said he had discussed with the Commissioner of Customs to find a lasting solution to the issue so revenue mobilisation doesn’t suffer.
The Nungua Warehouse Ghana Limited has donated some items to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to aid the Port Authority fight the spread of Covid-19 in the Port.
The Nungua Warehouse Ghana Limited is one of the lessees of the Port Authority in the business of importing liquid bulk through pipelines into tank farms developed on the land leased to the company.
According to the company, it has observed with admiration the Port Authority’s efforts in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in the port of Tema.
In order to compliment the efforts of the Port authority, the company donated 100 cartons of alcoholic hand sanitizer, 20 packs of facemasks, 10 packs of hand gloves and 3 cartons of liquid soap.
Presenting the items, the lawyer for the company, Jones Applerh said the port remains a critical aspect of the company’s import trade, hence, the gesture.
“The Port is very critical to our operation because basically we are importers and without the port we have no business,” he said.
Receiving the items, the General Manager of Administration at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Alec Oppong thanked management of the Nungua Warehouse Ghana Limited for the gesture and promised that the items will go a long way to support the Authority’s fight against the Covid-19.
He said since the outbreak, GPHA has put in a lot of measures to protect the whole port community and that the donation has come at an opportune time.
“We believe that this will go a long way to support our fight against Covid-19. We will put the items to good use to protect the whole port community.”
The Secretary General of the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA), Jean Marie Koffi, said the COVID-19 has not disrupted maritime activities within the West African Sub-region so far since all goods are still being imported and exported in ports of member states.
“Activities at the port are proceeding normally because the maritime borders are not closed,” he said.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive programme via Skype from Abidjan, Jean Marie Koffi indicated that he does not foresee a point where ports would be closed stating that measures are already existent in ports to take care of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary General of PMAWCA encouraged users of member ports to take advantage of the available digital platforms in operations during this COVID-19 period as well as urging port workers to ration staff as way of adhering to social distancing protocols.
“I will urge the Ports to take advantage of technology and digitisation which save employees from physical interactions,” he noted.
Jean Marie-Koffi emphasised, that his outfit is continuing to engage Management of ports to raise awareness in good health and safety practices during this period.
Earlier in a communique to ports in West and Central Africa, the PMAWCA boss stated that port platforms cannot shut down in the wake of the coronavirus crisis because they are critical infrastructures and necessary for the survival of nations and vital to the population and economy.
The communique set out stringent health and safety measures to be implemented in all Western and Central Africa Ports in order to preserve workers’ health, limit the spread of the virus and avoid the prolongation of this public health crisis and its economic consequences.
Port Authorities are to ensure that the measures are effectively implemented within the stakeholders of the port community and provide all the necessary means to protect employees at the workplace.
Port Authorities are also to ensure Harbour Masters implement these new health, safety and security measures immediately.
The following measures are:
1. Crew/passengers on board arriving vessels that have called at ports in mainland China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea and Spain within the last 14 days shall remain on board the vessels during the vessel’s stay in port.
2. Crew/passengers arriving from countries other than mainland China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea and Spain who wish to land ashore will be served with Stay Home Notice (SHN)
3. With effect from 31st March 2020, Port should cease calls from all cruise vessels. For Shipping Community: 1. New Compulsory Maritime Declaration of Health (attached is Singapore Maritime & Port Authority new declaration as of March 20th, 2020)
For ISPS Restricted Areas:
1. Enforced social distancing for port workers;
2. Observing other health precautions for all port workers;
3. Enhanced access control with temperature taking checkpoints
For Port Community Stakeholders:
All stakeholders should take precautionary measures for eligible staff to telecommute.
Legal Practitioner and Senior Partner at AB& David Africa, David Fosu-Dorte has called on African governments to domesticate purchases and procurement processes to boost Intra-African trade strategizes and minimize the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We could see Africa and some countries in Africa becoming an alternative base of supply chain of some items. We may have to as African countries coordinate our response to COVID in such a way that COVID becomes an impetus for increasing intra African trade rather than decreasing it,” he said.
Speaking on the Eye on Port Panel discussion on how national and international Trade and regional Protocols have been frustrated by the COVID-19, the lawyer, said the global consequences of COVID-19 should teach African nations a lesson to boost intra-African trade because the reliance on the West and Far East has obviously proven not to be the best sustainable option.
He also indicated that the COVID-19 has significantly impacted the establishment of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in various ways, including uncertainty surrounding the level of commitment of governments, and the closure of borders indicating a substantial reduction of intra-African trade volumes since the pandemic.
“Businesses on the continent are having stresses so you don’t expect them to ramp up production especially at a point they can’t export.
So in the absence of open borders, in the absence of free movement, definitely, all these are going to affect the ability to produce and even when the restrictions are lifted I expect that it will affect our trade,” he noted.
David Fosu-Dorte stated that, he would propose that the implementation of the AfCFTA should be on schedule, as it would ensure nations prepare themselves towards strategizing their industries.
The Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Ghana, Emmanuel Doni-Kwame, on the same panel, urged the private sector to participate in an ongoing survey that seeks to gather data about the frustrations associated with the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 and enable authorities fashion out practical remedies.
“We developed it together with the WHO and we picked a simple questionnaire that looks at the impact of pandemic on your supply chain and it gives the necessary feedback on how the private sector can help reduce its effect,” he noted.
He called on Ghana's commercial banks to augment cashless systems, so that the inefficiencies that have emerged from the banking systems due to the COVID-19 would be resolved.
“My worry is to see the long queues at the banks because we were keen in setting up the paperless regime at the ports also developing and creating a cashless economy. So we expect the backs to address that issue,” he said.
Engaging Legal Clauses
Emmanuel Doni-Kwame emphasized the need to dialogue between traders and shipping service providers, but also encouraged members of the trading public, to engage all legal clauses within the contracts that could be applied in order to explore the reliefs.
“We are in different times. You need to notify your parties you have a contract with them and you need to check if you have a Force Majeure clause in contract. Once you have a Force Majeure clause, you also have to check if pandemics are listed in there,” he advised.
However, David Fosu-Dorte, the Legal Practitioner said businesses and individuals should be circumspect in seeking to hide behind legal doctrines like frustrations and force-majeure clauses but rely on legal advice for any such action since reliance on such principles are based on facts of each case.
The Port of Tema Operations Team has bid farewell to outgoing Port Security Manager Col. Joseph Malik Punamane who has served since November 2017.
The Ag. Director of Port Mrs. Sandra Opoku on behalf of management and staff expressed appreciation for his hard work and dedication to duty citing numerous occasions where Col. Punamane has acted swiftly in the interest of the Port.
“Every time you call him to help he is available to help and ensures that things are put together. I admire him for that,” she said.
Other members of the team shared their fond experiences while working with him and wished him well in his new endeavours.
Col. Punamane expressed gratitude to his superiors, the Board, management, staff of GPHA and the Port community for the opportunity given to him to serve at the port.
“I am very grateful to everyone for the support given to me because without you I wouldn’t have achieved all the good things you have said about me,” he said.
In order to augment the stock of sanitary items of the GPHA Clinic, the Angel Group of Companies, has donated some 1000 bottles of the New Original Adonko Hand Sanitizers, tissues, face masks and hand gloves to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority's Clinic and Health Services Department.
The Adonko Bitters Limited is a beverage manufacturing wing of the Angel Group of Companies, which is applying its expertise to manufacture a new alcohol-based sanitizer to provide the Ghanaians with standard hand sanitizers to protect them from contracting the coronavirus.
Kwamena Sam Biney, a representative of the Angel Group, highlighted the crucial role G. P. H. A’s clinic plays in the Tema Metropolis and Ghana as a whole in combating the spread of COVID-19 as the motivation for the gesture.
Dr. Kissi Dompreh Ofori, Senior Medical Officer and Clinical Services Coordinator of GPHA's Heath Services Department who accepted the donation on behalf of the Management of the GPHA Clinic, emphasized the importance of the specified protocols by health authorities in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
The Matron of the GPHA Clinic, Elizabeth Ocansey thanked the Angel Group for their philanthropy and urged other corporate bodies to emulate the gesture.
Port users are being encouraged to continue to clear all goods at Ghana's sea ports since cargo movements are exempted from the current restrictions on movements of persons in Ghana.
According to Esther Gyebi Donkor, General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Affairs of GPHA the Port is clearing every type of cargo.
“We have not limited any of the cargo types. The protocols we have put in place have tried to reduce the number of people that come to the port at the same time to clear cargoes. But every type of cargo is being cleared at the Port,” she said.
National Economic Survival
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive panel discussion on Cargo Clearance Procedures at Ghana’s Sea Ports Amidst Ongoing Temporary Restrictions on Movements of Persons, Esther Gyebi Donkor, stated that the essence of keeping the port open is to ensure the nation’s economic survival.
She advised cargo owners to liaise effectively with freight forwarders and truckers to clear their goods from the port.
“We have the clearing and forwarding agents who clear cargoes for importers so what we are encouraging them to do is for the importers to allow their agents to come in with the truck drivers to clear their cargoes for them unless it is very critical for the importers to be present.”
The Tema Sector Commander of Customs, Joseph Adu-Kyei echoed the relevance of continued cargo clearance in Ghana’s port in revenue mobilisation for the state especially in these critical moments.
“Government needs revenue so those who have goods at the port should come and pay so that government can get the revenue. Revenue is nose diving and it is a serious issue so please be patriotic and come and clear your goods,” he encouraged.
However, the two major institutions steering affairs at Ghana’s port maintained the importance of continuing its COVID-19 permit systems to ensure that the number of port users within this period of the pandemic is reduced.
Although opposed by the freight forwarding fraternity who said they would prefer their permanent biometric port passes to be sufficient for use, Customs and GPHA, explained that the permit will allow them to separate those who have critical engagement at the port from those who do not.
Joseph Adu-Kyei emphasized that contrary to speculations, his outfit is flexible in giving out these passes to freight forwarders, importers and drivers who have legitimate business to do during this period of restricted movements.
He also revealed that the timespan of these new COVID-19 passes have been made indefinite.
“If you have goods to clear at the port, come to our office and we shall issue you with a pass which has no timeline,” he said.
Suspend Penalty Charges
Eddy Akrong, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, complained that the current skeletal structure adopted by the various institutions in the clearance chain has relatively reduced efficiency and created some inconveniences in the supply chain.
“Some of these stakeholders are working with skeletal staff and business is very slow,” he said.
He urged government to intervene and ensure institutions in the port clearance chain such as the GPHA, Customs and the Shipping Lines waive port penalty charges like rent, warehouse rent charges, and demurrages, respectively during this period of hardship just as other sectors are enjoying some relief.
“What we are asking for is that there should be a certain general moratorium,” he said.
The Assistant Commissioner said state warehouse rents would be considered on individual basis.
Esther Gyebi Donkor said for GPHA to put out a general rent waiver on all cargoes during this period, not only would importers take undue advantage and reluctantly abandon goods, which would create congestion in port, but there would also be severe financial consequences for the Authority, who already have a lot of financial commitments to its employees, and maintenance of port facilities.
The GIFF President, however, expressed some misgivings on considering such penalties on individual basis.
“The problem we have with the case by case basis is that there is going to be a bureaucratic hell,” he stated.
The President of GIFF also called on shipping lines to start working on weekends to facilitate clearance transactions, since the lines charge demurrages for not clearing cargo on weekends even though they do not work on the holiday and weekends.
The Minority in Ghana’s Parliament has kicked against the replacement of GCNet and West Blue’s systems with the UNIPASS technology by Ghana Link.
Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, the Member of Parliament of the Ellembelle Constituency questioned the legitimacy of the processes leading to contract the new company that is expected to handle to the new government customs management reform.
“The current government abandoned the necessary legal procurement procedures and resorted to sole-sourcing the new company to provide customs management systems for the country,” he revealed.
He questioned the reliability of the UNIPASS technology which government has contracted for the new government customs management reforms.
“If you look at the company government has contracted to take over from GCNet and West Blue, they do not have a positive track record.”
Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, also bemoaned the financial consequences of terminating the contract of the existing service providers.
The Representative of the Minority, also lamented the legal contentions ongoing between the incoming vendors, and their predecessors, GCNet and West Blue on copyright infringements, pointing it as one of the many reasons the country should cease to engage UNIPASS.
“The technology by UNIPASS is being contended by GCNet and West Blue in court for violating copyright laws. If the court rules in favour of GCNet and co, we would lose out,” he lamented.
Players in Ghana’s ports and maritime industry have stated that the current restrictions due to the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus presents an opportunity for the industry to deepen its paperless systems in the port clearance chain.
“I think this has been a big lesson for all of us. Hitherto, we always want to work on site. It has given us the test of time to be able to look at how we can polish our paperless systems,” Garvin Amarvie, the Corporate Monitoring Manager of GPHA said.
“This is a very good time for us to deepen the paperless process and we have to review our processes also,” Adam Imoru Ayarna, a Council Member of the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana, added.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on the Effects of the Temporary Restrictions on Port Clearance Operations in Ghana, representatives of the key agencies in Ghana’s port clearance chain including the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, the Customs Division of GRA, the Association of Customs House Agents of Ghana, and the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana, all acknowledged the value of having a paperless system in the port and outlined how their various outfits are currently making use of electronic platforms in their transactions and operations.
“Paperless is more important to us even now than ever. It has been very useful. You can easily sit in the comfort of your home, and do the processes,” Yaw Kyei, President of ACHAG indicated.
“When the paperless process started we took it quite seriously. Prior to that we had a few of our activities on the e-platforms. To the best of the ability of the shipping lines, we have continued with that skeleton style,” Adam Imoru Ayarna, SOAAG disclosed.
The industry players however, did not fail to concede that there has been a general reduction in cargo volumes in the first quarter of the year citing the coronavirus pandemic, a major factor.
“The numbers are okay. But let me say that even prior to the lockdown the shipping lines had been generally hit. Also, you have to note that the Chinese new year. Cargo volumes from Asia are down. We won’t say the volumes from Europe are what we expect. They have dropped, but they are okay,” the SOAAG rep revealed.
Temporary COVID-19 Permits
The Representatives of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority as well as the Customs Division of GRA, who are the lead institutions in the Port community, revealed that currently their outfits are issuing temporary permits to individuals and companies who have critical business to do in the port in order to ensure there is significant reduction of people who operate within the port environment although port operations are exempted from the current restrictions on movements in Ghana.
“What we have in place is that, we have put a template on our website for the various categories of port users so what we want people to do is to go to that site and if you have work to do, download your area of operations, complete the form, and we would grant you the access,” GPHA’s Corporate Monitoring Manager said.
“When it comes to examinations, we need the physical presence of agents or the owners to come so that containers would be opened and therefore the pass enables us to know those who have work to do at the port,” the Tema Sector Commander, Joseph Adu Kyei added.
Flawed Permit System
But Yaw Kyei, President of the Association of Customs House Agents of Ghana, while commending the initiative also pointed out some flaws in the temporary permit system especially on the part of customs including how insufficient the number of passes has been for members of his outfit to conduct business smoothly among other things.
“The first ones he gave us were only for two days. Now the issue is that, how do we move from our house to the port to work. And they gave us about two passes for every company, that is not enough.”
He even indicated that the rush period to obtain these passes created a level of disorder at the customs long room in Tema which according to him, defeated the concept of social distancing altogether.
He revealed that his outfit would have preferred to continue to use their agency cards and permanent port access cards to work, since they are sufficient identifications for them to work with.
According to him this would avoid all the inefficiencies associated with the new temporary pass system.
“We have the various association cards, we have GPHA ID cards and MPS ID cards, which are even biometric so taught that they were more authentic while ours served as a backup. So we discussed with them that why don’t you let us move from various homes with these ID cards to the operational areas,” he lamented.
The President of ACHAG emphasized that such challenges emerge from the mistake of not including freight forwarders in the decision making process of contingencies during this period of coronavirus prevention.
He called for some revision of the decisions to properly cover freight forwarders who form a critical part of the port clearance processes.
“The problem is that when all these things were being planned, freight forwarders were all excluded. We believe that when these things come, let us all come together to draw a masterplan for implementation. Immediately some of us are excluded, the implementation becomes very difficult, because we play a very critical role in these processes, and without us government revenue would definitely suffer.”
The Tema Sector Commander of Customs, disagreed with Yaw Kyei’s submission saying the current measures are sufficient as the ultimate goal is to reduce human physical presence at the port as much as possible.
“I cannot go beyond the limit that has been given me. These are all checks to reduce movement of people so that people can lockdown in their homes so that only those who have work to do at the port gain access.”
Addressing the issue of the distance of some port users to his office to obtain these permits, he clarified that these permits can be issued to port users who have legitimate business to do during this period of restricted movements at every Sector Commander’s office countrywide.
“Wherever you are, just go to the customs office and the Sector Commander would look at your situation and issue you a pass where need be,” he indicated.
He also called on security agencies including the police and military regulating movements on the various corridors in the country to grant access to those with permits and that includes trucks carting goods to transit destinations.
Garvin Amarvie, the Corporate Monitoring Manager of the Ghana Ports Harbours Authority, revealed that due its certification with the International Organisation of Standardization, GPHA quickly activated its emergency response procedures as soon as the Authority got news of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The Corporate Monitoring Manager of GPHA disclosed that crew changeovers at Ghana’s ports are currently experiencing strict restrictions to avoid the importation of coronavirus into the country.
“The last time the Philippinos were handed over to our port security manager, to make sure that their movement was straight on board, from the airport,” he cited.
Adam Imoru Ayarna, a Council Member of the Ship Owners and Agents Association, said considerations would be made on a case by case basis by the various Shipping Lines so that some importers would not take undue advantage of demurrage waivers.
He therefore encouraged clients to be in effective constant communications with the Shipping Lines when they face difficulties in clearing their cargoes.
“If for whatever reason your client, at the end of the supply chain cannot receive the goods, it is imperative, that either your client, the importer, makes contact with the shipping lines, and inform them of their difficulty so that when all this is over and we are talking about demurrage or whatever charges we can come to an amicable solution.”
The industry players collectively urged all port users to abide by health and security protocols and make use of paperless systems at their disposal to transact business, while the country strives to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
With the aim to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, while continuing to provide efficient health care for its clients, the International Maritime Hospital is encouraging the general public especially prospective clients to take advantage of its telemedicine program.
According to the Head of Clinical Services of the International Maritime Hospital, its telemedicine procedure, allows both existing clients and potential clients of the hospital to consult doctors via the internet where they can even take delivery of medications in cases where they are not necessarily required to be physically present at the hospital.
“The good thing is that, it is a video consultation. We can assess you, and send you prescriptions. We also have the added service where if you want us to deliver medications to you, we can do that in Tema and Accra,” Dr. Helen Tettey explained.
This she explained is in the vein of ensuring IMaH reduces the human traffic at the hospital to the barest minimum while continuing to make health care readily available within the current circumstances of ensuring physical distancing among people.
She said in complementing this initiative, the International Maritime Hospital has deployed the standard measures of screening at the entrance and exit points of the hospital, provision of soap and running water, hand sanitizers at vantage points in the hospital’s facilities, as well as observing strict social distancing among staff, clients, and patients.
“Also for visitors, we are having visitor restrictions. And for our in-patients, you don’t have more than two visitors. We have restricted it to two visitors and these two would be those to visit you all the time,” she added.
Dr. Helen Tettey also revealed that her outfit is encouraging the proper use of nose masks which have been identified as critical towards the prevention of the spread of the coronavirus.
One may call or WhatsApp the International Maritime Hospital on 0552222290 to access the telemedicine service or for further enquiries.
The Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Michael Luguje has conducted another random inspection in areas within the Tema Port.
The move is to encourage staff and port users in the midst of the current temporary restrictions on non-essential work and movements nationwide.
DG’s visit also sought to ensure workers and stakeholders who have business to do in the port continue to observe health and safety protocols towards the prevention of spread and importation of coronavirus.
The DG of GPHA, visited the Revenue Center, Transit Terminal, the Golden Jubilee Terminal, and the Main Harbour, which are generally the areas that experience the most human traffic.
The DG first inspected the level of social distancing observed among workers and port users while conducting their duties as well as solicit from the various managers, challenges that are being faced in their efforts to ensure a secure and safe working atmosphere at the port amid the current predicaments.
Currently, the state is observing restrictions on movements and jobs or operations that are not considered critical or essential in the Greater Accra Region and some parts of the Ashanti Region following a directive by the President, Nana Akufo Addo to enhance government’s efforts to contain the spread of coronavirus in Ghana.
However, the Ports of Ghana are considered essential and expected to be operation during the period of the Temporary Restriction on movements and work due to the significant role of the Ports ensuring continuity in the economic life of the country.
Management of State Interests and Governance Authority, has paid a working visit to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to reassure of its assistance in safeguarding the Authority’s functions at an optimal level of profitability to ultimately serve the Ghana’s interest.
The team was received by the Board Chairman of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Peter Mac-Manu, the Director General of the GPHA, Michael Lujuge, and some senior management of the Authority.
“It is important that from time to time they come to take a bird’s eye view of what is happening in the enterprises under their interest for the shareholders,” the Board Chairman of GPHA stated.
Stephen Asamoah Boateng, the Director General of SIGA stated that new strategies have been adopted by his outfit to ensure that the state interest is protected.
He emphasized the new status of his outfit, where they now assume the responsibility of ownership of acquisition, receipt, holding and administration or disposal of shares of state-owned enterprises and joint venture companies.
He encouraged such institutions such as the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to align with the ongoing new development.
He said his outfit is resolute to ensure prudent management of expenditure by state institutions that SIGA has oversight, in order to reduce the burden on government.
“Our job is to look after the expenditure levels and how we manage the risk exposure the SOEs and others put us all under and that helps the Finance Ministry as well. We have a key role that we play,” he articulated.
The Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Michael Luguje, said the Port Authority would continue to collaborate with the State Interests and Governance Authority, to ensure GPHA remains afloat in its enterprise.
“We will work very hard despite the challenges we are facing to ensure that we remain afloat and profitable as the circumstances would permit us to be.”
He also revealed that the Port Authority would take up the national call for the use of Made in Ghana products, for national development.
The Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa has stated that port platforms cannot shut down in the wake of the coronavirus crisis because they are critical infrastructures and necessary for the survival of nations and vital to the population and economy.
The Association in a communique signed by its Secretary-General, Jean-Marie Koffi has therefore set out stringent health and safety measures to be implemented in all Western and Central Africa Ports in order to preserve workers’ health, limit the spread of the virus and avoid the prolongation of this public health crisis and its economic consequences.
Port Authorities are to ensure that the measures are effectively implemented within the stakeholders of the port community and provide all the necessary means to protect employees at the workplace.
Port Authorities are also to ensure Harbour Masters implement these new health, safety and security measures immediately.
The following measures are:
1. Crew/passengers on board arriving vessels that have called at ports in mainland China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea and Spain within the last 14 days shall remain on board the vessels during the vessel’s stay in port.
2. Crew/passengers arriving from countries other than mainland China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea and Spain who wish to land ashore will be served with Stay Home Notice (SHN)
3. With effect from 31st March 2020, Port should cease calls from all cruise vessels.
For Shipping Community:
1. New Compulsory Maritime Declaration of Health (attached is Singapore Maritime & Port Authority new declaration as of March 20th, 2020)
For ISPS Restricted Areas:
1. Enforced social distancing for port workers;
2. Observing other health precautions for all port workers;
3. Enhanced access control with temperature taking checkpoints
For Port Community Stakeholders:
All stakeholders should take precautionary measures for eligible staff to telecommute.
Experts have predicted that should the coronavirus pandemic elapse mid-year as projected by many economic bodies, the world is poised for a recession and Ghana will be greatly affected.
“The Global economy as Japan and all the other countries have forecasted is going to go through a recession, but that depends on how long, we are able to contain this pandemic. If it takes longer then we are really in for trouble,” Prof. Peter Quartey, the Director of ISSER, University of Ghana cautioned.
“If you listen to the doomsayers, who say if nothing is done fast, it means global GDP is going to drop by 0.5% and that means we are talking 1 trillion dollars in terms of loss, and that’s significant. That would certainly spin us into a recession,” Dr. Kofi Mbiah, a Maritime Law Consultant and CEO, Ghana Chamber of Shipping corroborated.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s panel discussion on Counting the Cost of Global Upsurge in Viral Diseases, with focus on the COVID-19 and the emerging Hantavirus, the Director of the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research of the University of Ghana, Prof. Peter Quartey, anticipated that a lot of sectors including the financial services sector, agriculture, the manufacturing sector, export and import among others would land in huge deficits if the pandemic is not contained in the country by mid-year.
“If you look at our production itself, we will see all of the key sectors declining. Our export base is going to decline, the agric industry for example. Services sector especially, for example hotel and restaurant, the airline industry, and even banking and other financial services are going to decline,” he predicted.
Suffering Maritime Industry
Dr. Kofi Mbiah, a seasoned expert in the International Maritime Industry, a Maritime Law Consultant and the CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Shipping, made similar projections for the port and shipping industry and recounted the massive losses currently experienced in the industry, globally.
“When we take the shipping industry, as a significant driver of world trade, it has been badly affected. The tanker trade, the dry bulk trade, the general cargo trade, and the container trade have all been hit badly. Today there are a number of tankers moving at less than half capacity,” he revealed.
He expressed particular worry for Ghana’s port and maritime industry which does not only serve as the government largest tax source but employs many Ghanaians including port operators and administrators, customs officials, freight forwarders and other shipping service providers.
Dr. Mbiah stated that his fear is that the current temporary measures to cut down numbers of employees by institutions in the port, may be forced to be a permanent situation if, the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the local and international maritime trade.
“The thing that I look at in terms of the economics of this is that, what we are doing now, with respect to the rotations of the critical staff is a concern. We should be mindful, and pray that this temporary measure does not continue and become a permanent situation.”
Government Bail Out
Prof. Quartey said due to the anticipated state of hardship it is imperative that the government looks for money to bail out the general public especially the Private Small Scale Enterprises, which cover the large chunk of Ghanaians.
“There could be a lot of desperation, a lot of unemployment, and that may lead to social vices. You need to find the money and provide the bail out to some key productive sectors of the economy as well as services like the banking, insurance, airline. Also, help the small and medium enterprises,” he said.
According to him this requires extensive planning to ensure prudent management, and accountability to adequately allocate these resources.
Prof. Quartey indicated that it is with such transparency that would attract philanthropists and corporate entities to come to the aid of the nation in these hard times.
Empower Veterinary Services
Dr. Joseph Awuni, a Virologist and Head of the National Veterinary Laboratory, on the same program indicated that currently the Noguchi Medical Research Institute has made contact with his outfit to serve as a backup for the testing and diagnosis of COVID-19 as the number of cases recorded in the country increases.
He stated that the current crisis can see some improvement if Veterinarians in Ghana are supported adequately to augment the role of research and testing of such viruses.
“We have the facilities to do this, but these facilities can only function with funding. And with this COVID-19, when dealing with it, you need protective clothing. We don’t have it,” he exclaimed.
He said the Veterinary Services are the most competent outfit to ensure that animal products that can serve as carriers of the virus are monitored and eliminated from Ghana’s boundaries when contaminated and reiterated the need to be resourced to serve such mandate effectively.
“There are a great number of people who are working in animal food processing plants, who may be infected, sharing the virus and directly contaminating these foods of animal origin without showing signs. It is unfortunate that veterinary services have been removed from inspections of foods of animal origin at the ports,” Dr. Awuni complained.
The Virologist revealed that such zoonotic diseases would not cease if human encroachment on wildlife continues, citing it as a root cause of the current pandemic.
“With the global population explosion, there is high demand of food and other things, so human beings are encroaching on the normal habitats of animals thus, the sharing of these diseases,” he asserted.
However, the various experts reemphasized the need for the current health protocols to be followed as those are the surest ways of containing the virus so that public health as well as the national economy doesn’t continue to suffer. “People must be healthy to be productive and where there is production then we can move away from this crisis. That is why it is important for us to observe these protocols and ensure that wherever we are we ensure that we say, stay at home,” Dr. Mbiah said.
The International Maritime Hospital continues to invite the general public to get their heart screened at the ultra-modern facility at a discounted cost of GH¢250.
Persons who visit the international maritime hospital to screen their hearts will as an additional package have the opportunity to check their blood pressure, body mass index, fasting blood sugar test, glycated haemoglobin test, fasting lipid profile test, ECG as well as free lifestyle modification counselling.
A family physician specialist, Dr. Yaa Akyaa Boateng said the heart plays a crucial role in the human body, hence, the need for all persons to endeavour to know the state of their hearts.
“We want people to walk around with a healthy heart. We want people to know they’re healthy, so just come in and let’s take a look at your heart,” she implored.
She said person who want to book an appointment to get their hearts screened can call the number 0552222290.
The Director of Port of Tema, Sandra Opoku, the CEO of Meridian Port Services Mohammed Samara and the Tema Customs Sector Commander, Joseph Adu-Kyei have urged freight forwarders and stakeholders in the port clearance chain to take advantage of technology such as the paperless system, as the country strives to control the spread of coronavirus.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive platform, the industry players maintained that the Ports of Ghana remain operational, however, their individual outfits are undertaking effective measures that would ensure human interactions are reduced significantly so that the ports do not contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.
“We will still maintain the same level of service for everybody. We will work 24/7 with the help of Customs and GPHA, to make sure ships are coming in and out of the port,” Mohammed Samara said.
“We will also ensure that the number of port users, and casuals who enter the port is reduced. We would have to structure the number of freight forwarders entering our Golden Jubilee Terminal to clear their container. Maybe twenty people in a certain time frame and by appointment systems so that we don’t have a lot of crowding in our terminal,” the Director of Port of Tema, Sandra Opoku revealed.
The Tema Customs Sector Commander added, “we will not allow people to come into our offices because now we can see that the horizontal transmission of the coronavirus is very dangerous.”
The Director of Port of Tema, Sandra Opoku, acknowledged the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and said the Port of Tema is considering more drastic methods of reducing human contact in the port areas, in addition to methods that have already been put in place over the past couple of months.
She revealed that currently not only are workers and visitors in the port screened on daily basis, and hygiene practices enforced, but GPHA has also ensured that its buses for transporting staff as well as official meetings are decongested greatly.
“With the meetings, we would not have to meet at a round table to discuss things. We will be doing the teleconferencing and things like that. Even the vessels coming in, we would have to limit the number of people on the terminal,” she disclosed.
Sandra Opoku indicated that the Port Security would ensure that crew change overs that hitherto was a common practice in the shipping industry is ceased completely in order to prevent imported cases of coronavirus through the sea ports.
“Now we would not be able to give assure passes to even crew who would normally bringing the cargo. So nobody would be able to go out.”
She also revealed that the port would, henceforth, ensure that the number of importers and freight forwarders who enter the port for their goods would be reduced significantly and in addition to that, a more robust appointment scheme would be deployed by the Port Authority to reduce the human traffic in the port.
“Now this family and friends’ entourage certainly that’s not the way to go. We will have to cut down on that. So if the shipping agent is coming and just one importer, then we’d allow you in,” she said.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Meridian Ports Services, Mohammed Samara, disclosed that a crisis committee has been set up to address operations during this era of coronavirus pandemic.
He entreated importers to make use of the effective data system that MPS has invested heavily in.
“We have invested heavily in the paperless system and we have successfully turned the Tema Port into a paperless port. We have invested in pay gates and we have a good number of freight forwarders who have registered and taking advantage of this pay gate. You can access your invoice online and pay online as well. I encourage everybody to do that,” he urged.
The CEO of MPS revealed that the Port Terminal is considering sending some of its administrative staff home where they can remotely work, while the operational staff observe strict preventive measures.
“We will start to look at converting certain positions and giving them remote access. We will reduce the number of people who are coming to office and have them quarantined at home,” he said.
The Tema Sector Commander of Customs, Joseph Adu Kyei, said at the Tema Long room importers apply for changes in their manifest which can’t be done electronically so they troop into the long room to have their changes effected manually.
He said the Customs Division in addition to the provision of hand sanitizers and soaps, and running water at vantage points at its offices, full personal protective equipment have also been distributed to customs officers who go on board vessels and also undertake physical inspection.
“It was very necessary that we protect such officers, so we have been able to secure the protective gear for officers who go on board. So far we have about 20 of them.”
The Assistant Commissioner also said the Customs Division will reduce the workload of officers, and adopt a scheme that will make officers rotate frequently so that a large number of workers do not work at the same time.
“If it comes to the crunch, then we should do shift system within the team, and we break ourselves into small groups where some customs officers work at a time, and others later.”
The Assistant commissioner also hinted that, Customs may adopt a drop-box system where documents are left in an information box and lifted by officers to work on and later picked up by freight forwarders.
“We have put a notice that, drop your application in this box where officers would come and take them for processing so that we will reduce the human interaction.”
Unlikely Port Shutdown
Mohammed Samara did not rule out a potential shut down of the port terminal should the local situation become worse.
He, however, stated that it is an unlikely situation and MPS is hoping to remain in operations due to the essential nature Port operations play in Ghana’s economy.
The MPS Boss admitted that even though container volumes have not reduced in Tema, there is a major concern by Port operators that if the pandemic reaches absolute severity in the long term, the Port is likely to suffer.
“At the moment, there isn’t any drop in volumes, but that doesn’t mean going forward we won’t,” he indicated.
The Director of the Port of Tema, corroborated the CEO of MPS’ submission, but described the resumption of work by factories in China as a silver lining as China remains Ghana’s leading trading partner.
Rent and Demurrage Waivers
Sandra Opoku said GPHA will consider waiving some rent charges that would be accrued as a result of a direct impact of the Port Authority’s measures due the coronavirus prevention and that would be done on a case by case basis.
She urged the Shipping Lines to consider similar initiatives when it comes to demurrages.
“We are all in the port community so once things like these come upwe have to all rally together. Right now we all have to make sacrifices and so we will be talking to our stakeholders, the shipping lines to look at their demurrages.”
Work Paperless and comply with rules
Both Mohammed Samara and the Sector Commander of Customs touted that the Tema Port operates a very reliable paperless systems and port users should take advantage of that and function remotely to prevent physical human to human contacts.
The various industry players called on the assistance and compliance by the general public in all measures deployed at the ports so that they can collectively complement the country’s effort to end the spread of the pandemic.
“To contain the spread, we need everybody on board. As we are sensitizing our officers, all other stakeholders must do same. When you come to us to do business, you must apply by our action points,” the Assistant Commissioner advised.
As part of preventive measures to avert the spread of coronavirus also known as COVID-19, Management of the Port of Takoradi has begun the screening of all port users at the entrance and exit point of the port.
Management has also ensured the availability of running water, soaps and hand sanitizers at all establishments within the enclaves of the Port of Takoradi as part of efforts to enhance hygiene procedures.
The Medical Services Department of GPHA, has designated some staff to be specially trained as front line health officers to deal with all cases related to the coronavirus.
In the meantime, in addition to sensitization exercises, the Takoradi Port has designated two separate holding areas to address potential cases of the coronavirus.
Simultaneously, GPHA has suspended the intake of cruise vessels, port tours and academic internships due to the COVID-19. A GPHA Interagency Emergency Preparedness Committee on COVID-19 has also been set up to structure more effective standards of operating in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier in Tema, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority in collaboration with the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service, embarked on a sensitization drive within the port community to educate stakeholders on the new coronavirus emerging from the Far East, with special focus on its prevention.
The month long sensitization campaign saw the allied team of health experts educate members of the fishing community, employees of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority at the various operational and administrative departments, stakeholders of GPHA including the customs Division of the GRA, the Meridian Ports Services, the Ghana Dock Labor Company, the Tema Shipyard, the Shipping Lines, the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, transport unions and freight forwarders as well as workers who work in and around the port enclave with the objective that all people who engage in some form of interactions in the port community are well informed about the disease.
The various groups of people were guided on precautionary measures against coronavirus infection including good hygiene practices and the wearing of nose masks and gloves for workers who go aboard vessels.
GPHA took the awareness program a notch higher, by training front-line officials from the Marine Operations Department, Fire and Safety Department, the Transport Department and the Tema Shipyard who directly encounter travelers to the port, as part of preventive measures.
In addition, all entry and exit points at the Port of Tema, Golden Jubilee Terminal, GPHA headquarters, Tema Port Administration Block among other places have been screening staff and other port users before they are allowed into the Authority’s building.
Again, hand sanitizers, water and soap have been available to staff and port users for use.
An entourage consisting the Director General and some senior management members of GPHA has toured all key areas identified as entry and exit points of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to inspect the level of preparedness of the Authority in combating the importation and/or spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
In addition to the provision of hand sanitizers, soaps and running water, the Port Authority has ensured that all who engage the operational and administrative areas of the port have their temperature checked as the organisation is pursuing different methods to contribute to the national drive to inhibit the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The Director General of GPHA, Michael Luguje said the Port Authority will ensure it puts together the needed logistics to augment the organisation’s capacity to help the national emergency action.
“We are providing the necessary budget to get the resources that are required for us to be able to contain and prevent this pandemic,” he said.
G.P.H.A. assures all of its cherished stakeholders that it is committed to doing any and everything in its power to safeguard the health and economic interests of all Port users and the country as a whole.
In a related development, the General Manager of Health Services at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Dr. Vitus Anaab-Bisi has revealed that the Health Services Department of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, has designated some staff to be specially trained as front line officers to deal with all cases related to the coronavirus.
He also said currently, drastic procedures are being taken to ensure patients who show symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19), are not only given the maximum attention, but are also completely isolated from other patients and staff of the G.P.H.A. clinics. So far, no positive cases have been recorded from the sea Ports of Ghana.
In a related development, the Women’s Wing of the Takoradi District of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union of the Trades Union, Ghana, has also celebrated the International Women’s day in a parade across the city of Takoradi.
The parade was to sensitize the community, on gender equality in the Ghanaian society.
Shirley Braimah, the District Chairperson of the MDU, called for the women in the maritime industry to serve as worthy models to encourage more women participation in the industry.
“Our impact must be felt in the maritime industry. I want to tell the women not to relax. But we need to push to make sure that other mothers would see and say it is time to send their children especially the girl child into the maritime industry,” she said.
Members of the Women’s Wing of the Tema District of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union of the Trades Union, Ghana, have met to celebrate the International Women’s Day to assess the general scope of gender equality in today’s world as well as deliberate on issues confronting women in the maritime industry.
Abdul-Rahman Baidoo, Chairman of the MDU encouraged the first female Director of Port of Tema, to continue to play a key role in conscientizing the organisation towards increased women participation, especially in areas of leadership.
The General Secretary of the Maritime and Dockworkers Union, Daniel Owusu Koranteng, said women possess some innate strengths even superior to that of men and should be allowed more opportunities of work in the maritime industry.
“We live in a world now where it is not about the muscles or height, but the brain. Women have emotional intelligence and they are people-centred. They think about society.”
The Director of Tema Port, Sandra Opoku, who was the guest speaker at the meeting, explained the essence of gender equality for global socio-economic development.
“It is the precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development, and building good governance. You need women, because we are nurturers and because we make more than half of the population,” she asserted.
She encouraged the membership of the women’s wing of the MDU, to stay focused on their various assignments, and stand their grounds at their areas of work, against any form of intimidation.
“Because of your good work, other women would also be given the opportunity,” she urged.
The Health Services Department of the Takoradi Port in conjunction with Port Health has taken significant steps to ensure that they curtail any spread of COVID-19, should the virus find its way through the port.
According to the Head of Medical Services, Takoradi Port, Dr. George Tida Kabi, in preparedness towards possible contact with the coronavirus, there are two separate holding areas designated for the addressing any potential cases.
The holding areas, which have been furnished with the necessary protective equipment and bed space, according to him is meant for solely those identified by the health authorities for having the disease.
“These are solely for people who would walk into our facility and been identified by we the health personnel to have COVID-19. We would keep the person in our holding area, and trigger emergency preparedness, by informing the Regional Health Directorate,” he revealed.
He said, his outfit is collaborating closely with the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service, to ensure crew on board as well as clients and staff of the Port who show symptoms are quickly tested and quarantined where necessary.
“Usually port health would get information that a ship is coming, and the crew list is available to them. They would first go to the ship and identify the client, and they would notify us,” he explained.
The Head of Medical Services, Takoradi Port also revealed that the staff of the Authority have also been adequately trained in preventive measures.
He added that intensive simulation exercises would be conducted as soon as the Management takes receipt of sufficient Personal protective equipment.
“The process of procurement is about 90%,” he disclosed.
The leadership of two freight forwarding associations, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, (GIFF) and the Association of Customs House Agents of Ghana, (ACHAG) have expressed the need for adequate preparations before government introduces a new vendor to take over from all existing vendors operating at the Ports and borders as part of the new customs management reforms as Ghana Community Network Services (GCNet) threatens to go to court if government wrongly terminates its contract.
“I think government needs to go back and reintroduce it in a better format than what they are doing now. There are a lot of things they need to do to let us have confidence that this new system coming up is far better than what is existing now. There is lack of confidence in the system and that is why people are not too comfortable with it,” Yaw Kyei, President of ACHAG suggested.
“It goes both ways. Assuming we decide to pull the plugs on the system while we have a contract, government will take us to court. So if government is doing the same and pulling the plug and not letting the company’s contract come to an end, clearly we would have to go through certain motions,” Carl Sackey, GCNet, said.
This concern was raised on the live Eye on Port panel discussion, when some vendors and users of customs clearance processes expressed their positions on the incoming government’s new customs management reforms that is supposed to be driven by the UNIPASS technology operated by Ghana Link.
Is UNIPASS Ready?
Edward Akrong, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, claimed the UNIPASS is not as functional as it is being touted by the Government, and the pilot program in some low-stress areas, is not yielding much results.
“As we speak, go to the stations where the senior minister ordered the roll over, what is happening there? They are still using the GCNet and PAARS by West Blue system. So far, I have seen one declaration from Aflao,” he revealed.
This according to him, made him wonder if the UNIPASS is at full strength to take over from the existing vendors, at stress areas especially in Tema which has not been fully tested with the system.
“This is all not plug and play like it looks. Just get set ready to go! Once we plug, we don’t want to have any issues. When the frustration starts, and you cannot clear on time, and the clients are coming at you, and shipping lines are taking their demurrages because of delays…that is where the frustration starts,” he explained.
The President of GIFF asked why the case of the multiplicity of vendors and inadequate interoperability of systems is being publicised profoundly by the Government, as upon experience, West Blue and GCNet have been able to provide a seamless port clearance system.
“We do not feel at the back end, how the transactions go through because it is seamless,” he opined.
On his part, the President of ACHAG, Yaw Kyei, revealed that his outfit is excited that a single vendor is to be deployed to kick out the ineffective Cargo Tracking Notes as well as other vendors which had been a mistake from its inception.
“Compliance is coming off the system, CTN is coming off, and CCVR is even off the system, and you can put in the BOE way ahead of time, and you can correct any issues before the vessel arrives. So, we are excited about that,” he affirmed.
He added that his outfit is open to new customs management reforms once it would contribute to port efficiency and ease of doing business with efficient end-to-end customs management system.
The President of ACHAG however stated that GCNet as an existing vendor may have equally been considered to lead the new customs management reforms since they have demonstrated competency over a long period of time.
“That’s why sometimes we are also a bit more hysterical not knowing who is coming in. Whoever comes in and is able to offer services we are okay. I must say GCNet for example we have never had problems with them. They have offered services that we have very little to worry about. Assuming whoever comes in is the same or better than GCNet, why not,” he indicated.
He said he was unhappy about the initial training arrangements that was being implemented by the team from UNIPASS but the situation has improved.
“The start of the UNIPASS program had not been too good, but efforts have really been made, such as training programs.”
Eddy Akrong however was of the opinion that UNIPASS hasn’t prepared users well enough ahead of their takeover of customs management systems.
“One thing we also stress is that, the customs regimes are not just one. You don’t just do imports. You’re doing transit, exports, temporary importation, etc. If you do not go through all these processes to identify the issues therein, then we are going to have problems when we really start,” he expressed.
The Deputy General Manager, Technical, of the Ghana Community Network Services, Carl Sackey revealed that government via a letter by the Senior Minister has asked GCNet to handover its data and systems for review and eventual replacement with a new system to takeover customs management in Ghana, but a timeline was not set for that.
He explained that so far as they still have a contract with Government till 2023, they will continue to execute their mandate for which they were contracted.
“They haven’t given us an ultimatum that indicates a date to handover. There is nothing of the sort. We are still saying that, we want to execute the contract as specified which ends December 2023.”
He said GCNet are happy with providing the state with the sovereign data of the country but cannot handover the other elements of the government demands, as they constitute intellectual property and giving them out to a competitor would be inappropriate and illegal.
“CUPIA is the one providing the software which is the same thing GCNet is doing for Ghana. To want GCNet to handover stuff that constitutes intellectual property to a competitor, that doesn’t add up!”
GCNet refuted the idea that it did not fulfil targets set for them and contributed to inefficiencies in the system. GCNet also said it did not have a problem of interoperability with other vendors.
“It is technically GCNet and West Blue which are the two players in the port interfacing. I do not remember the last time we had a meeting or email to that effect, because the systems are working,” he stated.
GCNet to see out contract or go to court
Carl Sackey denied the notion that they are holding the country to ransom, and emphasized that GCNet are only focused on executing its contract, hence any impediment will be subjected to legal proceedings to bring about justice.
“For us to accept anything, we would have to go to court. Because if government doesn’t see reason, we would go to court,” he emphasized.
He stated that GCNet would continue to ensure that they have their systems up and running and are resolved to secure government revenue and ensure trade facilitation under the current conditions.
“It is important that we note that as an entity that is interested in making Ghana work, whether government takes a decision to do parallel or not, we would have to continue to operate, because it serves nobody’s interest if the freight forwarders and importers suffer undue demurrage because of these contractual issues,” he assured.
Government has revealed that it is going to eliminate all multiple vendors contracted by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies to provide services in the port clearance chain at the nation's ports and borders of entries and exits.
“We want to replace the multiplicity of vendors with a single vendor. A single vendor that will be responsible for what we call the ‘End to End System.’ This is because at the moment, we have these sub-systems coming together to give us an end to end view,” he explained.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive programme, a deputy Minister of Finance, Kwaku Kwarteng said government had an overall industrialisation agenda for the port industry which included three fundamental targets which are: Automating all ports clearance process, eliminating multiplicity of vendors that provide IT, capacity building and other services for MDAs and also have the Government of Ghana be able to own and control all data gathered through the port clearance process.
The Deputy Minister explained that towards achieving a full automated port clearance process, the paperless system was rolled out by government which is largely considered successful.
“It has been a good initiative and a lot of the processes are now done online. The issue of getting regulators to provide permits online, is one of the things the new system is working on at the moment,” he said.
According to the Deputy Finance Minister, the current system of having multiple vendors providing end-to-end customs management has led to inefficiencies within the port clearance chain and subsequently reducing the expected revenue of government from the port and import trade.
“Both the GCMS and the Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System are owned by different vendors who consider themselves as competitors and you are asking them to complement each other for the benefits of Ghana’s Customs Regime. We did not quite get the kind of cooperation that we wanted,” he stated.
He said, in pursuit of the agenda to have a single vendor operate at the ports, government has signed a contract with a Ghanaian company, Ghana Link who will be using a technology called UNIPASS which is a product owned by the South Korean’s Customs called, CUPIA.
According to Kwaku Kwarteng, who doubles as the Hon. Member of Parliament for Obuasi West, the coming on board of the UNIPASS Technology will provide end-to-end port clearance services.
“I have looked at the recommendation for many experts as well as customs and technical people who have gone to actually review the system and they recommend it is the system that can serve our purpose,” he indicated.
Own our systems
He said not only will the challenge of inadequate level of interoperability be solved by the new system, but Ghana would also get to own the IT systems and all accompanying data which the current vendors have absolute control over.
He said the contract by government with the new single vendor will allow customs to gradually takeover the IT Infrastructure that will be deployed by the new vendor.
“The decision to focus on a single vendor and to get GRA representing Ghana’s Customs have a direct relationship with the new vendor is the beginning of a culture of customs taking control over this. If you look at the new arrangement with this new service provider a lot has changed,” he disclosed.
The Deputy Minister of Finance lamented that government had been worried over its inability to control and own a data provided through the customs management systems.
“It was also about our ownership of our customs management systems. We have become so used to having private people do things that customs must be able to master and own. And the multiplicity of vendors with different contract terms and many of these systems not making customs the center of their operations; even if it was in theory, in practice it never happened,” he continued.
Asked why government did not consider to merge the existing vendors to harmonize the clearance processes, into one entity to solve the problem of interoperability, the Deputy Minister said this was not achievable as these vendors are competing private business entities.
“These companies don’t forget, have other businesses doing. They’re just doing this as one of the things they do. So we to put them together to work together in all the things that they do? That was not something I considered,” he expressed.
He said to strategically resolve the issue, Government had to introduce an entirely new vendor to provide end to end port clearance services, and the decision went through rigorous external international assessment.
“It was recommended by the international consultants that did the work that we had to ought to have a single vendor, a single name, so we can focus on perfecting that system,” Mr. Kwarteng added.
He revealed that government does not anticipate any judgement debts to be paid as current ongoing negotiations are yielding positive results so far.
“We have reviewed the situation and we don’t know why people keep talking about judgement debts when the current vendors exit. I do not believe at all there would be judgement debts. Government has said to the outgoing vendors that we are happy to enter into discussions to ensure that there is a smooth exit,” he emphasized.
UNIPASS to bring savings?
He said the new vendor will be paid 0.75% of fob which is higher than what is being paid two major existing vendors (GCNet and West Blue) which comes to about 0.68%.
But the Deputy Finance Minister emphasized that savings would ultimately be made when the variety of services that would be provided are considered. Besides, there will be not increases in Port Charges whatsoever.
According to the Deputy Minister of Finance, currently the new system has been deployed in a pilot program at 49 entry points of the country and is yielding positive results.
Support UNIPASS Kwaku Kwarteng said the new UNIPASS Technology has come to stay and encouraged the various stakeholders in the port and shipping industry to embrace the change with a good attitude so together, Ghana can reap the full benefit of the investment.
“Let us not discuss it in a negative spirit. We will proceed and perfect the system, so help us do so,” he appealed.
He nonetheless gave credit to GCNet and West Blue Consulting and other existing vendors for being instrumental in making automation of the country’s port processes a success over the period of their existence.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to explore tourist sites in the country, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Tourist Club has paid a visit to the only all-encompassing Aqua Tourism Destination in Ghana situated on the beautiful banks of the Volta Lake and the Hydro Electric Dam in Akosombo.
Members of the GPHA tourist club had a memorable cruise experience on board the MV Dodi Princess II, which is Ghana's exclusive commercial cruise boat.
GPHA is considering to have a cruise terminal in the port of Tema where tourist across the world could visit to rake in the needed revenue for the state.
Considering the fact that tourism plays a critical role in the development of every nation, the leadership of GPHA management expressed gratitude to the management of the Port Authority for regularly supporting the club.
They said they intend to explore all tourism sites in the country and entreated the management staff of GPHA to endeavour to be part of the club.
Ghana and Barbados have taken a further step in their ambitions to grow bilateral cooperation between the two countries with both parties expressing ambitions to develop a cruise terminal in Ghana to boost tourism and economic development.
The recent demonstration of this ambition was experienced, when a team from the Barbadian Ministry of Tourism and International Transport and the Ghana Tourism Authority paid a courtesy call to the Management of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.
According to Dr. Kerry Hall, the Director of Tourism Development of the Ministry of Tourism and International Transport, Barbados, his country has gained an expertise in cruise tourism, and should Ghana develop a cruise industry, the country stands to benefit tremendously.
“It is about product, and it is about offering a visitor to your country a menu of options and things to do and experiences. You would want to have your ground transportation people organise and take people to a few options where they can do their tourism and have a useful and productive experience of what Ghana has to offer.”
He revealed that in addition, his Prime Minister envisages a very lucrative venture in exploring the West African coast in cruise plans in the future so the concept of having a cruise terminal in Ghana will serve that purpose.
“My Prime Minister has in mind how best between Ghana and Barbados or perhaps the West Coast of Africa to be able to explore new routes. I suspect that would be a sell-out in the Eastern Caribbean,” he disclosed.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Tourism Authority, Akwasi Agyeman, disclosed that it is the government of Ghana’s intention to not only deepen tourism but trade as well, and recognises the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority as instrumental in facilitating this process.
“We are looking at ways that we can get Ghanaian manufacturers and small-scale businesses to partake in BMEX, which is the biggest Manufacturing Expo in Barbados. And so, hopefully working with you, we could fast-track some of the things that would be done,” he indicated.
The Director General of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Michael Luguje, said Ghana is among the viable countries poised to do well in the cruise industry so he welcomed the initiative.
“The potential for new routes is there for our region and it is important that we work together to open those,” he opined.
He added that the Ports and Harbours Authority of Ghana will visit the Port Authority of Barbados to cooperate in areas of capacity building, among others.
“We will very soon be talking to the Port Authority of your country to get a delegation that would visit for us to begin to discuss and look at what is going on there and during that visit, we will get the opportunity to interact with the port and tourism industry and see what kind of support and collaboration we can get for capacity building for knowledge sharing and the rest.”
The long awaited salmonella infested gizzard which was impounded at the Port of Tema following a tip-off from the Brazilian embassy has finally been destroyed.
A joint team comprising the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Veterinary services, GPHA Intelligence, Ports Health Services, National Security, Bureau of National Investigations and other stakeholders in the import and export chain destroyed the infested salmonella gizzard at the Kpone Dumping Site on Wednesday 4th March 2020.
In addition to the destruction of the infested gizzard, four other containers of unwholesome animal products were also destroyed in the joint effort of the agencies.
Dr. Asiedu Baah, Director of Veterinary Services said although they are able to bury the unwholesome gizzard infested with salmonella, certain impediments hindered their ability to destroy the products which was scheduled on February 17, 2020.
“I think we came here last two weeks to destroy the contaminated gizzard but unfortunately there was some hitch somewhere because of logistics,” he said.
He praised the security agencies involved and their effort in ensuring that the impounded container was not tempered with at the time it was taken for the destruction.
Dr. Asiedu Baah also reiterated that the importers of the infested gizzard were able to clear the three containers ahead of the officials and succeeding in selling the products to the citizenry because of the late alerts obtained by the agencies received from the Brazilian authorities.
“Let me reassure the public that this issue will never occur again because we are strengthening the signatories to that effect so nothing will ever happen again” he guaranteed.
Dr. Stephen George Bonnah, Head of Regulatory Unit, Veterinary Services Directorate, at the Port of Tema reiterated that going forward there should be coordination among stakeholder agencies on the Joint Inspection Management Information System which gives approval for the clearance of goods at the port.
“The last container which people were suspicious about has been finally buried. And we want to assure the public that from this day onwards products from containers that would be emptied, will be catered for properly, regulated properly so that consumer confidence will be there,” he assured.
He said the public should be assured that the unwholesome animal products have been destroyed and going forward veterinary and its allied services are going to effectively regulate all animal product that enter the country.
“At the end of the day when there is any problem in the system, so far as regulatory bodies are concerned, there should be coordination and not to assign blame to each other but there should be a mutual understanding between the institutions, instead of jumping from one station to another station castigating other institutions. We are all established by international law. The most important thing is that we should be able to sit down, collaborate and do the right thing,” he said.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, after a month-long sensitization campaign of the general port community on the deadly coronavirus, has taken the awareness program a notch higher, by training front-line officials who directly encounter travellers to the port, as part of preventive measures.
According to the World Health Organisation, there is now a total of 95,265 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3,281 deaths.
With African countries like Nigeria, Togo, Senegal, South Africa among others recording cases it has become imperative for Ghana to intensify its preventive measures at all entry points to the country.
It is as a result of this that the team of GPHA health services department sensitized members of the Marine Operations Department, Fire and Safety Department, the Transport Department and the Tema Shipyard.
The frontline staff of the Authority were taken through appropriate hand washing methods and special emphasis was laid on the use of protective clothing especially nose masks and gloves, during their dealings in the port.
Representatives of the private sector of Ghana have been deliberating on how to enhance the trade and business environment in Ghana.
The forum which was facilitated by the Ghana Trade Coalition, brought together participants from organized private associations, think tanks, academia and advocacy groups, to take stock of the recent successes and ongoing challenges in creating a conducive trade and business environment in the country.
Participants called for interest rates to be reduced so Ghanaian businesses can be competitive with the coming on board of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
The country head for CUTS International, Appiah Kusi Adomako, said there can’t be a strong AfCFTA if the regional integration is very weak.
“You talk of regional integration, we seeing ourselves as one market such that goods and services can move across the country and so the private sector has to take advantage of the regional integration that has been created under the ECOWAS, AU and AfCFTA, so that whenever you are producing goods and services you don’t have to see ghana as your only market. You need to look at your products and services beyond Ghana,” he advised.
Participants had appeals and advice for governments within Africa and Ghana in particular.
The Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Sampson Asaki said “if you compare Ghana to our counterparts in South Africa who are borrowing at 5% per annum and our people are borrowing between 20 to 25% per annum to do same production, it will obviously increase the cost of our products even though they are of high quality.”
The forum concluded by adopting a joint position paper, which includes a few recommendations to decision-makers: to enhance private sector participation in policy-making among others.
The Tema Port Security Manager, Colonel Joseph Punamane has met with boat operators within the fishing community to educate them on the rules and regulations governing the sea ports.
According to the Port Security Manager, the sensitisation has become necessary due to the fact that many fisher folks flout the ports’ regulations out of ignorance.
The fisher folk were schooled on the various GPHA laws, permits and fines apportioned to each regulation when flouted.
“The reason why we are asking you not to fish at the anchorage is that when you throw the net and it entangles the propellers you will be creating danger for yourselves because the propellers will drag you under the vessel,” he warned.
Colonel Punamane cautioned the boat operators to be circumspect in dealing with foreigners on the high seas since they are at risk of contracting the deadly coronavirus disease and spreading it to their family and the country at large.
The canoe operators expressed their gratitude to GPHA and promised that they will do their possible best in spreading the information to their compatriots.
A Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah has stated that there seem to be no end in sight for the ongoing border closure by the Nigerian government having led a delegation to Nigeria to negotiate the opening of that country’s borders to truckers that are carting goods from Ghana and neighbouring countries to Nigeria.
Carlos Ahenkorah has therefore advised truck owners and traders whose trucks are stranded at the Nigerian border to allow the truckers to come back to Ghana.
“The truckers must be willing to move because the border will not be opened anytime soon,” he said.
He said the President, Nana Addo has devoted some amount of money for the over 50 trucks stranded at the border to be brought back.
“President Nana Addo decided that we should go and bring back all the over 50 trucks. He doesn’t want us to leave anybody behind. He has devoted some amount of money that he doesn’t want to hear they don’t have money for fuel,” he revealed.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive platform on the Impact of Border Closure and National Economic Policies on the African Continental Free Trade Area Implementation, he said it doesn’t appear the Nigerian government will open the border soon because of major revenue gains made as a result of the closure of the border.
“When they closed the border the realisation of duties and taxes that they got from the port actually incensed their desire to keep the border closed. They were able to improve their duty collection 4 times,” he disclosed.
Mr. Carlos Ahenkorah who doubles as Member of Parliament for Tema West said there appears to be some unseen hands who are pushing for the continuous closure of the border because it inures to their benefit.
He said government has been able to engage authorities of Benin to allow the trucks back to Ghana at no cost to the traders.
He said government intends to secure a warehouse in Ghana for the traders to store their goods so that anytime the border is opened they can send the goods back.
The Deputy Minister stated that it won’t be in Ghana’s interest to also shut its borders as a revenge to the action of the Nigerian government.
He agreed with a caller into the programme who said traders should consider using the sea ports to Nigeria if the borders are closed, despite the seeming congestion that is also produced at the Nigerian Ports.
Speaking on the same programme, the National President of Borderless Alliance Ghana, Ziad Hamoui faulted the Nigeria government for not informing its neighbouring countries and also engaging civil society’s ahead of the border closure.
He also expressed worry over the lack of an alternative route which would have reduced the difficulties traders are going through.
He said it is possible some Nigerian businesses are happy about the border closure because smuggling of goods which is one of the reasons for the border closure still goes on.
Clement Boateng, the National Organiser of GUTA expressed worry over the fact that ECOWAS was silent on the Nigerian border closure until the affected countries started complaining.
He also criticised Nigeria for the unilateral decision to close down its borders, hence, subjecting other members of the ECOWAS to difficult times and urged the Nigerian government to take a second look at its decision.
Clement Boateng commended government for the swift response to a petition on the border closure and also agreed that the border might not be opened now. He said GUTA has considered other markets apart from Nigeria to trade with them.
The Ghana Association of Quasi-Government Health Institutions has held a meeting in Tema to discuss the global and national action plan for the prevention of the coronavirus disease also known as COVID-19.
The engagement was also to assess Ghana’s individual health facilities’ preparedness, as well as the role of GAQHI to facilitate that in the various sectors. The coronavirus epidemic has so far recorded over 40,000 cases, and over a 1000 deaths.
The Quasi-Government Health institutions comprise government institutions, agencies and departments that have their main service focus not being on health, but engage in health services activities, like the Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority, Ghana Police Service, the Military, Universities, VRA, Bank of Ghana among others.
Dr. Christian Kofi Amenuveve, President of the Ghana Association of Quasi-Government Health Institutions said there is the need for the public to be educated in preventive measures in the wake of the coronavirus awareness.
“Our membership is strategically located at the various entry points like the sea ports and airports. We also have institutions that receive and send students from abroad. So we have a role to play,” he said.
Dr. Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, Head of Disease Surveillance, Ghana Health Service, revealed that 15 cases suspected in Ghana, all proved negative of the coronavirus.
He continued to urge the Ghanaian public to report to the health authorities whenever symptoms of the coronavirus are detected.
“We are looking for fever, cough, difficulty in breathing within patients with a history of travel to the affected countries. We hope to detect the cases early, if any and manage them,” he said.
Dr. Vitus Anaab-Bisi, the General Manager of Health Services, GPHA, called for the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service to be well equipped in the performance of their mandate at the country’s ports.
The Heads of Food and Drugs Authority, Veterinary Services and Customs Laboratories at the Port of Tema have admitted that there exists lack of proper coordination through information sharing among them, which is a possible and major cause of the growing concern of unwholesome food products making their way into the country and eventually been consumed by the citizenry.
The admission comes on the back of three containers containing contaminated gizzard which were cleared from the port by Perez Foods Limited in February 2019. According to the Veterinary services it received an alert from the Brazilian embassy on 27th February, 2019 but received a confirmation letter from the embassy on 3rd April 2019.
The Head of Veterinary Division of Port of Tema, Dr. Stephen Bonnah explained the actions he took when he first got the alert.
“A letter was sent to GPHA, GRA and National Security indicating that there is a container containing contaminated gizzard so they should retain it,” he clarified.
Solomon Agampim, Head of Import and Export Control Department of FDA, revealed when the first containers were cleared from the Port.
“On 9th January, 2019 the first container was cleared. On the 28th January 2019 the second container was also cleared and on the 12th of February 2019 the third container was cleared,” he disclosed.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive programme, the Head of Import and Export Control Department at FDA, Solomon Agampim and the Head of Veterinary Regulatory Division at the Port of Tema, Dr. Stephen Bonnah admitted that lack of information sharing could hamper their work.
The Food and Drugs Authority, Customs division of the GRA and the Veterinary Services explained their respective roles played in releasing the infested gizzard episode.
The Chief Revenue Officer in Charge of Customs Laboratory at Tema Port, Joseph Eric Owusu said his outfit allowed for the clearance of the containers from the port because of the green light it received from the FDA.
He said there was no need for customs to question or re-examine the approvals given by the FDA.
“After physical inspection, the Authority that has to give us greenlight in this context is FDA. After FDA gives us the greenlight then we have to release the containers,” he stated.
However, the Head of Import and Export Control Department at the Food and Drugs Authority, Solomon Agampim said his outfit did not err in giving customs the green light because the cargo had passed compliance stage, which meant that all requirements had been satisfied.
“Compliance cannot be given without import permit. Customs cannot do compliance for an FDA product if we have not given them a permit. So why did Customs give compliance to these infested containers without an import permit. I should rather ask him,” he stated.
But could this seeming tension between the FDA and Veterinary services be the reason why the later didn't share the alert from the Brazilian Embassy on the contaminated gizzard with the former.
According to Solomon Agampim, after physical inspection of the three containers there were no traces of contamination, hence, their approval for its release in the joint inspection management information system platform.
“When these containers came we inspected them and they were physically okay. The FDA also inspected the physical state and it was excellent. The FDA has the copy here to prove. There was no deterioration and other physical signs of spoilage,” he stated.
He also admitted that none of the three containers were sampled for analysis.
“We have a mini lab and randomly we take sampling there but there was no sampling for these containers. Like we usually do; we take sampling from every fifth container. It is risky to take sampling from each container. None of these three containers was the fifth or tenth container so we did not take sampling from them,” he disclosed.
Dr. Stephen Bonnah, Head of Veterinary Regulatory Division at the Port of Tema said after it had been detected later that the containers were infested, his outfit stormed the premises of the importers who confirmed that the infested gizzard had already been sold out.
“We got to know the importers so we wrote to them and traced back. According to the importers the contaminated gizzard was already sold and were no longer in their stock,” he stated.
On the issue of the fourth contaminated container, the Chief Revenue Officer in charge of Customs Laboratory at Tema Port, Joseph Eric Owusu also revealed that the importer after paying all his duties was informed by the supplier that the goods are contaminated, hence, did not proceed to clear it.
“The importer received an alert from the supplier that the container containing the gizzard is infested with salmonella. When you read the full text of the alert it appears that the supplier was not certain. It was after the importer had paid and was to proceed that he received the alert and had to hold on,” he disclosed.
The agencies also admitted that though the importers of the containers of the infested gizzards possessed Veterinary Health Certificates from the country of origin, they didn't have import permit from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture which meant that, ordinarily the containers shouldn't have gone through compliance let alone have them released by Customs.
In the end all the agencies could not explain why an importer who doesn't have import permits can still have his or her cargo pass compliance and subsequently released into the country.
The Head of Veterinary Regulatory Division at the Port of Tema, Dr. Stephen Bonnah is calling for the Veterinary Services to be brought back onto the Joint Inspection Management Information System Platform (JIMIS).
This according to him, will enable the Veterinary Services perform its mandate of examining animal products that come into the country effectively. Currently, the JIMIS platform is made up of the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority and the National Security.
Even though the FDA is playing a lead role in the examination of animal products on the platform, Dr. Bonnah believes that is not enough because the Veterinary Services per international practice needs to examine all animal products that come into the country.
Speaking live on Eye on Port’s interactive programme, Dr. Bonnah said it will be easier for the veterinary services to share alerts on the platform with other state agencies if they are brought back on the platform.
Dr. Bonnah said even though it falls within the mandate of the Veterinary Services to examine animal products that come through the Port, in the case of three containers containing infested gizzards which were cleared out of Port of Tema, his outfit couldn’t discharge its mandate because they are not part of the Joint Inspection Management Information System which allowed for the release of the containers.
He said they were also not invited by FDA to examine the cargo.
“The veterinary services were not part of all the examinations of the gizzard. The items were supposed to be released on JIMIS and the Veterinary Services are not part of this platform,” he revealed.
But speaking on the same programme, the Head of Import and Export Control Department at the FDA admitted that his outfit has not been inviting the Veterinary Services since the introduction of the JIMIS platform.
He said they only take food products for scientific analysis only when they have doubts about their unwholesomeness.
“When you still have doubt about an inspection then you can invite the other agencies that is imbedded on the JIMIS platform or else we do the same thing as the other agencies do,” he disclosed.
The Chief Revenue Officer in charge of Customs Laboratory at Tema Port, Joseph Eric Owusu said if the Veterinary services is placed back on the JIMIS to collaborate with the FDA it will go a long way to ensure optimum efficiency.
“The absence of the Veterinary Services I can see has created some level of pains in the vet, so if they are to be restored to get them to effectively collaborate with FDA that will be it,” he said.
It will be recalled that three out of four containers containing infested gizzards were cleared out of the port of Tema and sold to the public at various markets.
The General Manager of Health Services at the Ghana Ports Harbours Authority, Dr. Vitus Anaab-Bisi, has urged both health and port security agencies to be extra vigilant in this period of coronavirus prevention due the varied ways of contracting the disease.
“We, who have been given the mandate to take care of the port should be very vigilant because the port is an entry point to this country. Like every other form of border, goods and services pass through there, and so can disease,” he said.
Speaking to Eye on Port on the topic: Coronavirus, A Global Threat to Trade and Shipping: Impact, Interventions and Remedies, he revealed that because health authorities are aware of Ghana’s limited health infrastructure, allied health agencies in the country, are being proactive to ensure that the country engages in all possible preventive measures so that Ghana does not record a case of coronavirus.
He said the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has collaborated with the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service to sensitize all operators and stakeholders of Ghana’s port, to create a desired level of preparedness among individuals who engage in activities in and around the port.
“Together with Eye on Port and Port Health, we straight away embarked on these sensitization exercises. We have to take all the necessary precautions. Basic disease control, basic disease surveillance and international precautions that need to be taken.”
He also disclosed that the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has budgeted to procure necessary safety gears for personnel who work in the port so that they can be 100% protected during their operations.
“There are plans that the Director General is going to roll out. They have devoted to an emergency budget for us to purchase protective clothing,” he revealed.
Dr. Anaab-Bisi, however, expressed worry for the safety of GPHA pilots who currently engage vessels first off instead of Port Health, during berthing of vessels in the port, and called for improved collaboration between GPHA’s marine operations department and port health unit at the Tema port for improved precaution.
“Just as GPHA has been supporting a lot of agencies, especially government agencies working in and around the port to do their work, in the same vein, we can support Port Health to do their work right. They have to join our Marine Operations team on the tugboats, which will enable the Port Health go on board vessels first at the anchorage to declare it safe before all pilots will go on board…”
The Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), David Kwadwo Amoateng has predicted a decline in cargo volumes at the country’s port, due to factors related to the coronavirus outbreak emerging from the Far East.
“I can say this without any shred of doubt, that we will see cargoes going down,” he said.
Speaking to Eye on Port, on the topic: Coronavirus, A Global Threat to Trade and Shipping: Impact, Interventions and Remedies, the GUTA Greater Accra Regional Chairman, revealed that not only are maritime activities in the area decreasing, but commercial activities within the cities in China have also taken a sudden decline due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.
“When you go there you will see a lot of countries trying to evacuate their people there. That tells you the level of activities that go on there,” he said.
He disclosed that many Chinese factories are on a break due to the coronavirus crisis which has definitely taken a toll on Ghanaian businesses who trade heavily with China.
“The people there that you’re going to buy from them have closed their shops. Some have moved to their villages. Even one of my suppliers sent a video saying he’s vacated his shop.”
David Kwadwo Amoateng admitted that the Hubei province, where Wuhan is situated, is a commercial hub where many Ghanaians trade, but his fellow traders would have to halt all business travels there and many other close areas to protect themselves from contracting this dangerous disease.
He also urged traders to either take the opportunity to enjoy a period of leave or consider alternative destinations for business plans, while they wait on world health institutions to eradicate this global epidemic.
“As businessmen, we hardly take our leave, so we should use this time to rest,” he said.
He expressed disapproval when addressing the alternative of online trading and cautioned traders not to hurriedly venture into online trading with their Chinese counterparts because there could be dire consequences.
“I’ll advise everybody not to gamble with his hard-won currency. Never do online business with a Chinese company,” he exclaimed.
On the same program, the GUTA Regional Chairman expressed discontentment towards the government’s reluctance in heeding to his outfit’s suggestions regarding ways of improving the value of the cedi.
“Let our leaders listen to us. They shouldn’t take it lightly when we tell them these things. They should sit down and analyse it. The kind of economics that go down in Makola, or Market Circle in Takoradi or Kejetia or Suame, you have no idea!”
He opined that the seeming positive performance of the cedi over the recent months is due to the Chinese who trade in Ghana, not having returned the foreign exchange to their country, hence keeping the dollar less scarce than it usually is by this time of the year.
“With the infiltration of the Chinese, after Christmas, the dollar begins to go up. But now, it is coming down, because they are here. They were beginning to go then the virus outbreak came up,” he revealed.
The Head of Veterinary Regulatory Unit at the Port of Tema, Dr. Stephen Bonnah, has lamented that his outfit has for some time been eliminated from inspection activities at the country’s port, hence, reducing the desired level of influence and control the Veterinary unit has on animal and animal products making it through the ports into the country.
Considering the fact that the deadly coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning its mode of transmission started from animal to animal it has become imperative how animals or animal products are inspected at the country’s ports and borders before allowed into the country for public consumption.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive panel discussion on the topic: Coronavirus, A Global Threat to Trade and Shipping: Impact, Interventions and Remedies, the Head of Veterinary Regulatory Unit called for urgent action for his outfit to be included in the joint inspection management system to ensure an effective monitoring of animal and animal products, which have a high risk of serving as carriers of diseases into the country.
“At the moment, at the Tema Port, veterinary is not in charge of products of animal origin. We not being part of the Joint Inspection Management Information System…and you are dealing with a particular container, how do we know,” he bemoaned.
He said the Food and Drugs Authority has been put in charge of animal and animal products that hitherto his outfit was inspecting at the port.
According to Dr. Stephen Bonnah, the Veterinary Regulatory Unit has the necessary facility at its disposal to conduct all procedures involved in the screening and examination of animal and animal products so that such diseases that are transmitted through animals are prevented from public consumption.
“I’d love to find time and show you our lab. It is one of the sophisticated labs around, and some of them are referrals for West Africa,” he said.
He said, the Veterinary Regulatory Unit currently issues import permits to importers of animal and animal products to protect the consumer and prevent the transmission of trans-border animal diseases.
“Before the import permit is issued, we do a lot of risk-assessment. We do not easily give out the import permit. We have to know the disease situation of the place you are getting your animal products from. And we can equally block these permits when alarms are raised,” he added.
But according to the head of the Veterinary Regulatory Unit, this is not enough, as his outfit needs to engage in physical examination of items to be able to fully fulfil its mandate.
“The OIE, the World Organisation for Animal Health, section 5 of the law declares the authenticity of veterinary taking over meat inspection and not only live animals,” he said.
He revealed that dog feed is commonly imported from China, but he doesn’t even know the statistics of those imports, because those imports do not go through his office.
Dr. Stephen Bonnah continued by saying, “the reason why we do not come out to say these things, is that because we are part of national security, we do not want to cause unnecessary fear and panic.”
The Greater Accra Regional Chairman of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), David Kwadwo Amoateng, who was also on the program, called on government to increase vigilance at the country’s borders because according to him, finding out the level of inactivity by the veterinary services during inspection activities at the port is a cause for major worry.
“I think this is dangerous. It is sad to note that we can import animal products, and among those who will do inspection, vets are not part of them.”
The fourth session of the executive council meeting of the Association of African Maritime Administrators (AAMA) has been organised in Accra, to discuss issues confronting the maritime industry, including wealth creation through the protection and sustainable exploitation of the African Maritime Domain.
Members of the AAMA who attended the two-day event came from countries including Ghana, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Tanzania, the Comoros, Mozambique, South Africa, Egypt, Sudan, Uganda and Nigeria.
The participants also discussed among other things the role the AAMA is playing in the implementation of Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050. The Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Thomas Kofi Alonsi, revealed that his outfit in keeping with its mandate, has removed tree stumps that caused significant problems to navigation in Ghana’s inland waters to ensure safety.
“If you go onto the Volta Lake now, we are on the second leg of a project that involves ensuring that all three stumps around a certain area where our canoes and boats ply are removed to ensure that we have safety as far as navigation on the inland waters are concerned,” he said.
He revealed that the Authority has purchased new boats to enhance its capacity towards the prevention of crimes at sea, especially considering the rise of piracy and kidnappings in the Gulf of Guinea.
“The Authority has also procured a number of boats. Just about two weeks ago, two of them have come into the country. These are to assist us in at least policing our oceans to ensure that incidents of piracy, robbery and all these illicit activities you can think of are curtailed,” he revealed.
The Deputy Minister of Transport, Daniel Titus-Glover, praised the allied efforts of Ghana’s security agencies in ensuring that international trade is protected on the country’s territorial waters and urged other countries in the Gulf of Guinea region to increase their own efforts to curtail piracy.
“Under the leadership of the Ghana Armed Forces, particularly the Ghana navy with the support of the Marine Police, the Ghana Maritime Authority is providing all the resources to make sure that from the east to the west of our territorial waters are safe to promote international trade. So we believe that our other sister countries will do same to make sure that we protect merchants.”
He lamented the inadequate participation of Africa at the International Maritime Organisation’s executive council and said his ministry will work behind the scenes to push for increased participation with the objective of improved representation of issues affecting the African maritime landscape.
“I have appealed to this session and I will let my minister of transport know. He will discuss with the president then at that level, they will be able to talk it over to make sure that at least Africa should have more representation at the IMO executive council.
3 out of 38 countries is woefully inadequate,” he bemoaned. The representatives of the Association of African Maritime Administrators after the two-day seminar familiarised themselves with operations at the Port at Tema by touring some terminals including the new Terminal 3 managed by MPS.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority on Monday 10th February, 2020 rolled out an electronic toll-payment system.
In this light the GPHA has engaged the various transport unions, drivers’ associations, freight forwarders and corporate organisations as well as shipping lines who are involved in the hauling of import cargoes from the port and evacuating of empty containers.
The e-tolling system is intended to facilitate trade while reducing the time spent in queues during the manual payment of tolls.
Drivers, and importers would have the opportunity to now pay via their visa cards, mobile money and master cards, to the bank who would eventually remit payments to GPHA.
According to Garvin Amarvie, the Corporate Monitoring Manager and ISO Co-ordinator of GPHA, the e-tolling system would eliminate the human interferences associated with paying tolls at the port.
“We are looking at the electronic tolling to facilitate trade. We do not want people to waste time to go and pay toll manually at vending points before they get access. That wastes time,” he said.
He continued by revealing that, GPHA has partnered GT Bank to put in place a system to conveniently collect tolls from drivers and importers.
“You do not have to go and waste time at vending point, for example Golden Jubilee or the main gate where you stand to purchase anything. GT Bank is now standing in for us and has come out with a package and they have been able to introduce a software that will be able take electronic payment from these people,” he revealed.
Some representatives of the GT Bank demonstrated how the electronic payment systems, will be used at the Ports.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority in collaboration with Port Health has continued the intensive sensitization campaign on the coronavirus in the port community. So far, nine cases which were suspected in Ghana have all proven to be negative.
Sea Ports can generally be considered as potential gateways for transporting any form of diseases from viruses and bacterial hence the introduction of the coronavirus sensitization campaign being embarked upon by GPHA and Port Health to ensure that the sea Ports do not become vessels to introduce corona virus into Ghana.
In all, the team of health workers, sensitized members of the fishing community, employees of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and its stakeholders including the customs division of the GRA, as well as workers who work in and around the port enclave with the objective that all people who engage in some form of interactions in the port community are well informed about the disease.
Areas visited in a week-long program include, the Tema Fishing Harbour, the Golden Jubilee Terminal, the Mechanical and Civil Engineering Department, Fire and Safety Department, Printing Department, the Revenue Centre, the Tema Port Administration and Headquarters respectively. Stakeholders of GPHA, who were assembled include the Meridian Ports Services, the Ghana Dock Labour Company, the Tema Shipyard, the Shipping Lines, the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, transport unions, freight forwarders and Customs. The Food Markets in the port, were also visited during the sensitization program.
Dr. Vitus Anaab-Bisi, the Head of Medical Services, Tema Port, emphasized that Ghanaians, especially those working at the port, should not be complacent towards the prevention of the disease.
“Other countries can transfer it to us, so it is across the world. So please let us not stigmatize. All we need to do is get information and protect ourselves. And we should endeavour not to go on a vessel with bare hands,” he highlighted.
He entreated those who encounter ship crewmen at first hand, in the port, to be very cautious in dealing with them and report any suspected symptoms with health authorities.
The Director of Port Health, at the Port of Tema, Raphael John Marfo recommended precautionary premeasures including the wearing of nose masks and gloves for workers who go aboard vessels.
“When you are entering into a vessel be very careful. The first thing to do is to encourage the wearing of the nose mask when boarding vessels. We are also encouraging wearing of hand gloves when boarding vessels before touching anything because through touching you are likely to contract the disease,” he educated.
He indicated that his outfit will also perform rigorous screening procedures at the port on board vessels.
The Chairman of the Junior Staff Union, Emmanuel Neequaye, encouraged institutions in the port to also provide the necessary logistics to augment protective measures.
“I think that with immediate effect all these protective measures must be put in place and should be quickly supplied to workers to help in the preventive measures of the novel coronavirus,” he advocated.
The various assemblies of workers in the port were also guided on how to perform some hygiene practices.
A booklet with comprehensive information on coronavirus’ prevention was also distributed to each person that participated in the sensitization exercise.
A former Director and Group CEO of GOIL, Mr. Patrick A.K. Akorli has pleaded that government continues to support GOIL to hold on to its key role as a regulator of prices within the oil marketing business.
According to him, if GOIL’s role as the regulator of prices within the oil marketing business is maintained, there would be stability in the country with regards to customers’ ease of doing business.
“If things are not done by the GOIL system that means we will return to the old days of doing things which would imply that the other companies play on the market. With GOIL in there, things are done in a very transparent way and anytime we see prices going up, you see that civil society even agrees and same applies for when fuel prices come down. Take GOIL out and you would begin to see things,” he disclosed.
Speaking on Eye on Port live on national television on Assessing Ghana’s Potential to Be the Oil and Gas Hub, the life-long servant to GOIL, revealed that prior to the deregulation system, not only was there instability in the oil marketing business, but Government lost a lot of revenue.
“We had been getting it wrong since the days GNPC would import refined products for TOR. There were Government subsidies applied which incurred losses. As we speak now, we are all paying TOR Debts. In 2007 the BDC concept was introduced, and by 2014, the BDC also run into debt because of foreign exchange losses and a lot of overheads in the industry which I found unnecessary,” he said.
He said although faced with a lot of resistance, he pitched the idea of GOIL having a Bulk Distribution Company that would buy directly from the Oil Trading Companies and then have the advantage of being in the position to regulate the prices and since then it has been a successful initiative.
“When in 2015, IMF said government should exempt itself from the regulation of the prices, I made a case to my board that GOIL needed a BDC and we did get a BDC which enabled us buy from the OTC’s directly. Till today, it has been working. GOIL is the one leading it.”
Mr. Akorli added that this model practiced by Ghana is admired by other African countries who want to emulate it.
“In fact people from East Africa come to me and ask how we are doing it. They complain saying, these people have taken over our economy!”
A former Managing Director and Group CEO of GOIL, Mr. Patrick Akpe Kwame Akorli, has called for increased economic stability to attract direct foreign investment in the wake of Ghana’s ambitions to grow its oil and gas industry.
“We need private investments to come and boost our oil and gas industry and that kind of investments would come when there is stability. Stability here in terms of macro-economy,” he stated.
Ghana to usurp Nigeria?
Mr. Akorli who is considered a giant in the Oil and Gas industry opined that, although Nigeria remains the dominant country in the oil and gas industry in the sub-region, they face some form of political insecurity.
According to him, Ghana can take advantage to usurp Nigeria’s position to become the gateway to West Africa when it comes to oil and gas, if it tightens its political and economic security.
“The oil and gas industry in the sub-region is controlled by Nigeria, so they have a very huge advantage but over there things are not too smooth so Ghana can take advantage of that and put in the financial measures into place and become more transparent,” he said.
National economic growth
Speaking on Eye on Port live on national television, to assess Ghana’s potential to be the oil and gas hub, the man referred by many as the Icon of GOIL, said Ghana needs to tap into all its available resources to grow the Oil and Gas sector, as a growth in this sector is positively correlated to a growth in national economy.
“Energy is what wheels every economy. For example, at the beginning of every year if the government of Ghana sets target for the economy to grow by 8%, it is likely that the oil and gas industry also forecast that theirs will also grow by 8%. It shows that energy is so important in economic development,” he stated.
He said the industry is such a dynamic one that keeps changing at a fast pace, hence, there is the need to always explore opportunities in that sector.
According to him, that informed the decision by the management of GOIL to enter into a joint-venture with America’s ExxonMobil in off-shore exploration.
The Former MD of GOIL said it is the vision that, such a partnership would enable Ghanaian engineers acquire the requisite skills to do modern-day off-shore exploration which will contribute greatly to Ghana’s development of local capacity.
“That 5 % is a stepping stone as it will give us the opportunity to train our young engineers to get involved in the upstream. We are already strong in the downstream so we must endeavour to make it to the top. If the economy is going to derive anything from the upstream business then a local Ghanaian oil and gas companies must be involved,” he articulated.
He said the marine gas oil tanks installed at the Port of Takoradi was inspired by the belief in Ghana’s drive to develop the Takoradi Port as the dominant oil and gas services hub for the sub-region.
“The government at that time had a masterplan of making the Port of Takoradi the oil and gas hub, so I made a presentation to the board of directors at GOIL that Takoradi is the real deal- I believed in Takoradi Port. So we took advantage of that and make contact with Takoradi for the installation,” he disclosed.
He revealed that the investment has yielded a lot for GOIL with multinational companies purchasing from GOIL.
Mr. Patrick Akorli, stated that he would love for the Tema Port to make the necessary investments to follow suit.
“I think the oil berth at the Tema Port should be enhanced so it will attract bigger vessels to make the oil and gas industry to grow,” he said.
The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Edward Akrong, has urged the trading public to trust the services of freight forwarders to not only broker customs clearance of goods, but also provide just in time end to end delivery of goods and services internationally.
“We are able to do that because we are networked. You do not only have to travel all the way to Kazakhstan because you need a part or two for a factory or production. You can contact your freight forwarder to handle all of that for you more efficiently,” he said.
Speaking on Eye on Port on Consolidating the Role of the Freight Forwarder in Modern Port Operations, he emphasized that the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders is a professional body with well-trained members with all the requisite skills needed to adequately perform custom house brokerage and other freight forwarding functions.
“What we do is a lot more intense than just the customs house agency bit. As freight forwarders, we do a lot more. That is why we have the academy. So, we train those who want to get into the industry in a whole variety of things for the work,” he said.
Unscrupulous Clearing agents
The President of GIFF hinted that the growing public concern of miscreants within the freight forwarding fraternity as slightly overrated and described professional misbehavior as common in all human institutions and not restricted to his outfit alone.
“It’s a human society and so we are bound to have miscreants in any situation. So you cannot restrict it down to us, because of maybe one or two things that you hear,” he argued.
But, he urged the public to deal with legitimate members of his association by scrutinizing and ensuring that they are registered and in good standing with GIFF.
“If you want to do business with anybody, please do the due diligence and make sure that this is a properly licensed customs house agent who belongs to a recognizable association. Locate his office and be sure you can deal with him properly. Do not go dishing out money to any stranger,” he cautioned.
He revealed that they have collaborated with customs to have all recognized customs house agents in a database to help importers verify from.
“So we have everything in there, from your ID’s, educational standards, everything has been logged in the customs management systems. This is to ensure that at the touch of a button any customs officer will realize the particular company you work for,” he explained.
Importers to self-declare?
Answering the question whether it is about time importers and exporters clear goods by themselves, the GIFF president said individuals are open to clear goods themselves but warned that the freight forwarding job is complex and the agent is necessary for trade facilitation.
“The law allows anyone to apply to be self-declarant. But they have to patronize us. The things we have to go through to get your work done is complex. It is difficult to easily understand. You have to have the domain expertise.”
Amalgamation of Freight Forwarding Associations
Mr. Akrong said that the Committee of Freight Forwarding Associations is hoping to have a legislative instrument to enable transform the committee to become a formal establishment.
He said the amalgamation of the Freight Forwarding Associations, is intended to bring a more comprehensive approach to dealing with issues that affect the freight forwarding industry.
The President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Mr. Edward Akrong, has called for more inclusion of freight forwarders in policy formulations in the country, towards well-advised policies that would improve trade facilitation in the country.
He was speaking live on Eye on Port on Consolidating the Strategic Role of Freight Forwarder in Modern Port Operations, stated that the freight forwarder’s role in both trade facilitation and revenue generation for the country is indispensable, hence, the need for them to be consulted whenever policies are to be rolled out.
“I’m pleading that they get us involved in policy promulgations in terms of things that have to do with our sector. It is the only way we can move forward. We are the end users of whatever policies or systems that are introduced. So, if we tell you there are problems with it, just listen.”
The GIFF president listed the Cargo Tracking Note as one of the failed policies introduced and maintained that his outfit opposes the policy because the things CTN was set to do, cannot be accomplished.
“We made our case saying we know that the things that CTN has set to do, it cannot do. The trump card of customs, was to go to the custom agency in the originating country to get the declaration, hoping that the declaration would tell them the true value of the goods coming in. We proved to them that, that was falsehood,” he disclosed.
He revealed again, that the tax stamp policy also did not go through consultation with his outfit before its introduction, and expressed his opinion that the elongated process of applying tax stamps defeats the progress of technology.
“It is a fine idea, but not with this age of technology. To bring out cargo from the port, and line up at a certain point to have cartons destroyed and then stick papers on them for identification…technology has come a long way for that. We want to propose a review of that,” he said.
Touching on proposed UNIPASS speculated as a replacement for GC-Net and West Blue as the runners of the Ghana National Single Window System, the seasoned Freight-forwarder maintained that there is no need for a replacement.
“Why fix something that is not broken. Has the Government asked West Blue or GCNet to do something that they are not being able to? No. They are tried and tested. The change we see is a source of worry to me. It looks like we are setting ourselves up to fail,” he said.
He, in his words “demystified” the notion that a single window system cannot be run by two entities, like we currently have with GCNet and West Blue.
“It is a myth that a single window system can only be run by one vendor. It is very possible. That is why, we call it the system of systems.”
He continued saying, “What we are doing right now, is we have a Pre-Arrival Assessment Reporting System. Once you input on that, it seamlessly runs into the GC-Net system where we do our declaration using the CCVR. Would you then say because we have two vendors running this, is it not seamless?”
Mr. Akrong, however, lauded the initiative to include freight forwarders in the introduction of the paperless port clearance project but described the exact implementation of the paperless process as waning over time.
“We think it is one of the best things that ever happened. The only problem is that; its effect has not been felt on the ground like we envisaged. I’d rate it at 50-60% implementation,” he opined.
He added that, “If you bear with me, in the initial days, when this policy had been effected, there was a direct government hand and a push right from Jubilee House according to how it should go, and everybody was whipped in line and made sure compliance was optimum.”
The President of GIFF said this is due to the lack of an able steering hand to drive the vision and objective of the Vice President’s initiative, and called for a direct government hand to intervene in the management of the project.
“We have always talked about a certain governance structure which is actually a UN Model. When you promulgate policies, the government has to have a direct hand in it to make sure it is working the way it is supposed to work.”
He said this in contrary to the suggestion of a lead agency within the clearance chain to drive the project.
The Ghana chapter of Borderless Alliance has held its Annual General Meeting to take stock of the activities in 2019, and highlight activities for the year 2020.
The Borderless Alliance has been championing the drive for improved regional economic integration and free movement of goods within the West African Sub-region, by various advocacy initiatives.
A national forum was held in 2019 on harnessing the full benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area as well as the Ecowas Trade Liberalization Scheme which the Borderless Alliance Ghana says it will continue to work so as to ensure that implementation of these regional policies is optimized.
The President of Borderless Alliance Ghana, Ziad Hamoui, said his outfit is committed to continue collaborating with the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and the Ghana Shippers’ Authority to ensure impediments to trade facilitation along the Ghanaian corridor are eliminated.
“We are working on the operationalisation of the West African online platform which is operated by Ghana Shippers’ Authority to support economic operators and drivers who are using the corridors and who are facing problems with checkpoints including illegal charges and resolve these issues for them,” he revealed.
He added that in 2020, Borderless Ghana will focus its attention beyond the Tema-Paga corridor towards the Elubo and Aflao corridors and bring to light the activities ongoing there.
“We want to also increase the visibility of activities across not only the Tema-Paga Northern corridor but also the East, West corridor, that is, Elubo, Aflao to highlight some of the activities that are taking place over there.”
He revealed that the 2020 Regional Conference for Borderless Alliance would be hosted in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority in collaboration with the Port Health Unit of the Ghana Health Service, has embarked on a sensitization drive within the port community to educate stakeholders on the new coronavirus emerging from the Far East, with special focus on its prevention.
The Coronavirus, which has been declared as a global health emergency by the World Health Organization originates from Wuhan, China, and has brought significant concern among players in the shipping and maritime industry considering the role China plays in international commerce, and migration.
Ports across the world have been identified, as the potential conduit for the spread of the Coronavirus and Ghana’s health authorities have resolved to ensure the country prevents any form of spread of the disease.
Thus, the sensitization drive is channelling all the needed cooperation from stakeholders of the port, including Port operators, shipping lines, clearing agents, security officials, importers and exporters of goods, ship suppliers, among many others to ensure that the disease does not make it through Ghana’s ports.
The team of health experts visited the Tema Fishing Harbour where they educated management and staff and later proceeded to the Tema Fishing harbour canoe basin and Tema Fish market to sensitize fishermen and fish mongers some of whom come into direct contact with Chinese sailors.
They were guided on precautionary measures against coronavirus infection including good hygiene practices.
Director of Port Health, Raphael John Marfo cautioned workers to avoid going aboard vessels without the permission of the port health who have to conduct mandatory health checks to declare the vessel is safe.
“Any vessel coming from China, we are expected to go through all the necessary screenings by WHO,” he alerted.
According to the Head of Medical Services at Tema Port, Dr. Vitus Anaab-Bisi, the exercise is very necessary due to the high level of business interactions Ghanaians have with Chinese and encouraged Port Users and the General Public to take precautionary measures very seriously to ensure that no Ghanaian gets infected with the virus.
“We want to appeal to you to just follow the instructions given to you and try and give us a feedback,” he urged.
The Chief Fisherman of Tema, Nii Adjetey Mator, commended the initiative but called for improved sanitation at the Tema Fishing Harbour, to avert all forms of diseases.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Meanwhile, the Tema General Hospital and the Ridge Hospital in Accra have been announced as the case management centres.
The educational campaign would be ongoing in other places around the port community and beyond till the Coronavirus is brought under total control.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has commissioned three new tugboats as part of its strategies to attract larger vessels and enhance the turnaround time of vessels at the Port of Tema.
The state of the art ASD tugboats, which are the first of its kind in Central and West Africa are of 80 tonnes bollard pull capacity and capable of performing firefighting and rescue functions.
The boats were named after Commander K.T Dovlo, Ben Owusu-Mensah and Josephine Asante who have exhibited exemplary character and contributed immensely to the development of the organization and the country at large.
Commander K.T Dovlo and Ben Owusu-Mensah both served as Director Generals of GPHA from 1994 to 1998 and from 2001 for 2008 respectively.
The late Josephine Asante, at the time of her passing on was the Marketing and Public Affairs Manager for Tema Port.
The Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Michael Luguje, during the ceremony said the boats were commissioned to enhance GPHA’s capacity to be able to receive modern container vessels and bulk carriers.
“Over the years we’ve had different capacities of marine craft. The biggest we ever had was 60 tonnes but these ones are 80 tonnes bollard pull capacity crafts and with those ones we can handle up to even 20,000 TEUs container vessels,” he said.
The DG of GPHA expressed pleasure of being at the helm of affairs during the honouring of the three former illustrious staff of the Authority who according to him, he had the opportunity to work closely with.
“I had to opportunity to experience the two former DG’s at very close range and in experiencing one of the DGs who I worked closely with, I had the opportunity to work within close range with the third personality. We say congratulations. It is truly an honour.”
He also charged the Marine Operations of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to do their utmost best to handle the tugboats for it to last longer and harness its potentials and capacities to enable the port business to grow.
The Chairman of the Board of Directors of GPHA, Peter Mac-Manu, said Ghana Ports account for 80% of Ghana’s trade and as part of its capacity development strategies, the Tema and Takoradi ports have embarked on major expansions project to continue to serve the cross-section of the Ghanaian market and beyond.
“These tugboats are expected to enhance the revenue position of the Authority. They are also expected to assist in the daily safe operations of the Authority as well as enhancing the turnaround time of vessels calling at the port,” he stated.
He also touted some significant functions the tugboats the tugboats will be performing.
“It is instructive to note that in line with the MARPOL Convention the vessels have the capacity to arrest pollution before it spreads to other areas of concern. Stakeholders will indeed find these facilities very useful,” he revealed.
The distinguished individuals who were honoured and their representatives commended the management and staff of GPHA for appreciating and immortalizing their efforts.
“My family and I are very much delighted for the honour,” Commander T.K Dovlo said.
Ghanaian economic experts, have encouraged policy makers to introduce a harmonized exchange rate especially for operators in the port and maritime industry at fixed time intervals in order to accommodate traders and alleviate the difficulties citizens face as a result the rapid depreciation of the cedi.
“At the ports, you’ll have to fix the rate for a month and review it over time. Because currently the agents quote different prices and that brings uncertainty and anxiety within the system. Government should set a rate that would require all institutions to apply. There should be benchmark ways of harmonizing this like we have in other countries,” Prof. Peter Quartey, Director of the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research, (ISSER), University of Ghana said.
Speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive platform as a co-panellist on the topic: Hunting Solutions to the Cedi Depreciation: Role of the Ports and International trade, Franklin Cudjoe, President and CEO of Imani Africa, corroborated Prof. Quartey’s assertion, suggesting a monthly fixed rate of the exchange rate in order to achieve more desirable results.
“The volatility of the cedi is real and the factors that affect it are difficult to control locally. But if the fixing could be done and allow a margin that would compensate an anticipated fall within the month, then maybe yes.”
Sharing his opinion on the pegging of duty payments to the dollar rate which is believed to be changed every Tuesday, a Former Commissioner of Customs, Wallace Akondor said the instability of the duty rates, creates tension among importers, contributing negatively to the ease of doing business.
“Let’s consider the cycle of transaction from the time the businessman orders his goods, which is normally a period of about 30-60-90 days. If at the time I initiate the business the rate is at 5 cedis to the dollar, by the time the cycle is complete, the rate would escalate to for example 5.5, that’s a lot of money. It does not reflect the actual transaction for the business,” he cited.
He further suggested, that a longer duration be considered for the rates applied on duty payments.
“Rather than having these weekly varying transactions at the port, Government, would have to look at a longer duration.”
A Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Carlos Ahenkorah, who also participated in the panel discussion, decried certain components of shipping charges in the country describing them as unjustifiable. According to him, such huge payments which account for almost 700 million dollars annually are repatriated to foreign countries, therefore, contributing significantly to the fall in the cedi’s value.
“It is important for us to note that a large chunk of forex leave our shores in the name of freight. I have fought this fight for the past 20-25 years trying to explain to government that we are losing money in a certain way which is affecting us as far as our forex is concerned. It might interest you to know that on an average, every year close to 500 Million dollars is collected in this department alone. Aside that, they charge about 143 Million dollars a year in demurrage on goods in the country,” he revealed.
He urged government to fight the continuation of these charges as it is a sure way to help salvage the loss of the cedi’s value.
“As I speak to you, I have a report and I’m going to present it to the committee. We have to take this up. Let’s tackle the exit points of the country and see how it can help us. I want the bank of Ghana to go back 10years, and see how much money has been transferred out of our shores in the name of freight and they would realise how much this is affecting the cedi depreciating. It is important to assess whether this is real freight or some profit of some sort which somebody is repatriating as freight,” he charged.
Regulate Black Market
The panellists who listed the insatiable demand for imports, low value added production for exports, as some of the contributing factors leading to the fall of the cedi, also highlighted that the non-regulation of operations within the black market as another significant cause to the rapid depreciation faced.
Prof. Peter Quartey, Director of ISSER, University of Ghana, called for regulation of operators in the black market so that their activities are properly monitored.
“Once you absorb them and register them, you are able to track their operations and their activities become formal.”
Traders travel with cash
Another scenario that was cited is the common case of Ghanaian traders hoarding a lot of foreign currency in which they use to engage in their business transactions overseas depriving the country of deriving the needed forex.
Franklin Cudjoe, proposed for improved payment settlement systems with the international market, to alleviate this problem of unnoticed forex exiting the country’s borders.
1D1F to focus on rice production?
Franklin Cudjoe also suggested that, Ghana should develop a national policy that would fully harness its natural resources as an effort to cut down the deficit suffered to imports.
He opined that if the 1D1F project for instance focuses on rice production in its full extent, a lot of money would be saved domestically, where hitherto would have been lost to the international market, leading to a devaluing of the cedi.
“Government policy itself could have a direct impact on the way our currency works. The Government wanted to reduce the import bill on rice for instance which I’m told is about a billion. I would wish that the Government policy of 1 district 1 factory, should be focused on ensuring that a lot of our rice is processed, and the market is guaranteed,” he expressed.
Experts within Ghana’s Maritime Security sector, have called for more investment to be made towards improved maritime security to protect Ghana’s territorial waters following rising maritime insecurity threats across the West African sub-region.
Speaking on Eye on Port panel on Strengthening Ghana’s Maritime Security: Lessons in 2019 and Strategies for 2020, the Executive Director, Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa, Naval Capt. RTD Dr. Kamal Deen-Ali called for the creation of a maritime security fund to combat insecurity threats more efficiently.
“We should have a maritime security fund. A fund that we draw in money from the various sources from which we raise money: Port charges, Oil and gas and other services that we provide. So let’s put something together and build a fund and from that fund you can be able to tool and operationalize the navy and the other security agencies,” he suggested.
He said, the government’s yearly budget allocation to the navy alone would not be adequate for the Country’s long term maritime security ambitions and called for a more sustainable source of funding.
“It is not possible to depend on government to look into its budget and be able to yearly support the long term funding and the long term tooling or retooling of the security agencies especially the navy,” he added.
The Commander of the Marine, Port and Railways Unit of the Ghana Police, Chief Superintendent Joseph Antwi-Ababio, also revealed that the operational cost of manning patrol boats are proving to be a major challenge and called for reliable funding sources for maritime security activities.
He said the national integrated maritime strategy that is being drafted, should consider the proposed maritime security fund and its efficient management.
“They are in a process of drafting a National Integrated Maritime Strategy and as part of it there are lots of recommendations, and one of our recommendations is about having a fund that the security institutions can source their funding from,” he revealed.
The Tema Port Security Manager, Col. Joseph Malik Punamane advised that air patrol becomes an additional means of securing Ghana’s territorial waters.
“They have to look at the air force for routine maritime heli-patrol. But this one involves cost so the MPS, GPHA and GMA should come together and go to the Air force and negotiate,” he proposed.
He expressed worry that while Ghana’s state security agencies are working hard to keep its territorial waters safe, the seeming insecurity experienced in neighbouring countries along the Gulf of Guinea, may render Ghana’s hard work futile.
“My worry is that we are doing well to secure our coastline but our neighbours are not safe. Every country needs to play its role effectively so we can all be safe,” he added.
Dr. Kamal Deen-Ali, said Ghana’s trump card of good security is losing its influence as the country’s international trading partners are more likely to conduct a regional assessment when making business decisions than assess Ghana in isolation.
“Although we stand out as a safe country and a safe Port we are still facing the consequences of the larger insecurity in the region when it comes to high insurance, high freight and everything else,” he stated.
He revealed that in 2019 the Gulf of Guinea recorded about 228 incidents of piracy and armed robbery on sea which is a slight improvement over that of 2018.
However, he said abductions for ransom and kidnappings have increased indicating that human lives are now more at risk than ever.
Dr. Kamal Deen-Ali added that, the Gulf of Guinea has proven to be a target zone for pirates and armed robbers because of the general insecurity in the region that has extended onto the maritime domain, which is far more lucrative.
He said the Niger Delta enclave continues to be a breeding ground for well-equipped maritime criminals and this would remain so, if the area continues to be ungovernable.
“That enclave continues to still be the highest supplier of pirates or piracy incidents in the region. So as long as the Niger Delta still remains unstable and ungovernable then there is an area that have people that have got the skills and ability to conduct crime and also have a way of evading security forces in Nigeria and for that matter, their crime will spread.”
He also called for a holistic approach to tackling maritime security to include both land and sea. He said improving the social-economic welfare of the society is so vital in mitigating the growth of alleged militia group involved in the criminal acts.
“Some of those concerns are creating employment, giving opportunities to the youth, raising people’s standard of living, making sure that as a country, we never have the fracture existing in our country where crime will be something that is consolidated,” he recommended.
Col Punamane also attributed the incessant rise of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea area to illegal oil bunkering at sea, where according to him vessels lay vulnerable to be attacked during their wait for bunkering.
He disclosed that his outfit is also on a campaign to rid all illegal settlers around the port enclave and praised the existing interregional cooperation between countries in the region but urged it to be improved.
“The pirates live on land and interact with the locals, and they plan towards their activities on land. So that prompted us to conduct those swoops around the port environs to make sure we clear the criminals out of the place, because that’s where they can plan,” he expressed.
He said inter regional cooperation that exist, when strengthened between counties within the Gulf of Guinea area would go a long way to combat crimes such as piracy.
Chief Superintendent Joseph Antwi-Ababio explained how beneficial a structured community is to policing, adding that communication to acquire information is key to having the needed intelligence to act on and prevent organized crime.
The Acting Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority has cautioned the general public that recalcitrant members of the public who fail to be tax complaint will be met with aggression this year emphasizing that more stringent measures would be applied to individuals especially agents and importers who declare falsely to evade taxes at the ports.
“So far as I lead this team, we will make sure that we educate and encourage tax compliance, but if you decide to be recalcitrant, the law will take its course.”
Speaking to the public live on Eye on Port’s interactive platform live on national TV said sanctions have been made stiffer, including the revoking of licenses for unscrupulous clearing agents who would want to take advantage of the fine systems and engage in falsehood.
“False declaration cannot happen without a connivance with the agent. After you are caught 2 or 3 times, we will ban you from operating. We have a system now that would be able to track the under-invoicing and over-invoicing. We will make sure the revenue leakages are minimized to the barest minimum,” he stated.
Rev. Owusu Amoah said, the GRA is very determined to rake in all the due revenue into Government coffers for national development, so it will not leave any stone unturned in efforts to perform its mandate.
He cited the example of shop owners and business operators, who under declare VAT issued, and warned that the invigilation officers are very charged to ensure that all due returns are made to the GRA.
“Some tax payers, will put a card in the invoice, and you find out that on the first sheet, the original invoice has a significantly different amount from the one that is on the duplicate and the triplicate, and thus evading the tax” he cited.
The GRA boss in the same vein, warned that officers who collude with tax payers to negotiate taxes will be brought to book. “There are revenue officers who try to in their assessment negotiate to beat down the taxes. These are the things that we are going to eliminate completely,” he cautioned.
He urged members of the public to be confident in reporting any such officers who engage in bad behaviors to management of the Ghana Revenue Authority.
“We want to say they should not be intimidated or troubled if they come out. I want to encourage the public that, as we come up with the numbers, they should also come out so that if we find anybody not doing the right thing, we will provide the support they need.”
He revealed that in addition to the informal sector, the e-commerce sector is an area the GRA will expand its reach to retrieve due taxes, towards the general objective of widening the tax net.
The Commissioner General, entreated staff of the Ghana Revenue Authority, to exhibit best customer service practices, to tax payers when they walk into their officers, to honor their tax obligations.
He revealed that tax payers have access to an improved customer relation unit, and they are welcome to approach the GRA, when they have any concerns or dissatisfaction regarding the fulfilment of their tax obligations.
“We are setting up in our offices, what we call, who audits the auditor? We will have another unit where if you bring such a complaint, you would not have the same auditor harassing you, auditing you, but somebody else that you can run to,” he disclosed.
The Acting Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Rev. Ammishaddai Owusu Amoah has stated that Value Added Tax is not charged on goods meant for transit.
“We don’t impose VAT on transit goods. Once it is leaving the country, we don’t,” he said.
The GRA boss said this in the wake of the transit community’s persistent discontentment with the 17.5 VAT fee they had described as unjustifiable. He said this on Eye on Port’s live interactive platform, on the topic: ‘Revenue Mobilization Goals: Assessing Policies and Addressing Variances’.
On the concerns of traders of the transit community asking for extensions in the period allowed for transit vehicles on the Ghanaian corridor, the GRA boss said the GRA will consider adjusting its policies if ongoing deliberations conclude that the adjustment would improve trade and wouldn’t hurt revenue generation.
“As part of the community, especially considering that we are fortunate to be having a sea port, we have to promote trade within the sub region. So whenever, the customs working groups during their discussions come up with a decision, we will move with it,” he said.
He said the GRA has deployed improved ways of tracking cargo meant for transit and are continuing to assess and improve existing methods.
“We are going to improve the entire tracking mechanism to ensure that they are effective as possible. Secondly, we are also using video via CCTV and attaching them to the tracking mechanisms.” he disclosed.
He also said the first port rule which would require duties to be paid on transit goods at the port of discharge, as a revenue retention intervention is still under consideration to be implemented.
“We thought that why don’t we have a system where the tax is taken from the first port, so far as the land is concerned, whether transit or not transit, before they get to the second country. We are yet to implement this. We are having several discussions,” he shared.
Touching on auctioned goods and vehicles, he added that auctioning would be improved to bring satisfactory results to the state and importers of goods and vehicles, and revealed that e-auctioning would be introduced to reduce discretion in auctions.
He explained the need for auctioning of goods saying beyond it being a revenue retrieval measure, it is meant to help decongest the port of uncleared cargo.
“The ability of goods to move quickly through the port attracts more business for the port,” he said.
The Acting Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Rev Ammishaddai Owusu Amoah, has indicated that the domestic tax sector of the Authority did much better than the Customs sector, in the Authority’s efforts in meeting the revenue target set by the Government for the year 2019.
“In total, the Ghana Revenue Authority ended the year at 43.5 billion cedis which is about 1.5 billion cedis above the target even though customs had suffered as a result of the benchmark values. We had to put more effort in the domestic side,” he disclosed.
Speaking live on Eye on Port’s interactive platform on the topic, ‘Revenue Mobilization Goals: Assessing Policies and Addressing Variances’, the GRA boss said although the reduction in benchmark values of general goods and home delivery values of cars for example saw a reduction in revenue mobilization in the Customs sector, the authority made up for it in other areas of domestic tax mobilization.
“We had budgeted that in 2019 that we would grow customs revenue to 14 billion cedis, from the 11 billion cedis previously, we ended the year at 12 billion cedis which was a decline, however, some of the other policies that were introduced at the domestic side in terms of domestic direct and domestic indirect were also positive,” he stated.
Rev Owusu Amoah said the 4th quarter of 2019 saw an enforcement of revenue laws to ensure taxpayers are complaint, emphasizing that GRA was very determined to collect outstanding debts to make up for gaps in revenue collection.
He said the GRA has found ways to improve the efficiency of its tax officers, by creating a healthy competition among them to meet targets. He added that with the help of the NABCO interns who contributed tremendously with their invigilation, the GRA yielded positive results in tax compliance.
“One of the areas you would see significant increase was the Value Added Tax. We had to do a lot of VAT invigilation where we made use of the NABCO interns who went from shop to shop to inspect people who were issuing the VAT,” he explained.
He however said that, after a general assessment by management of various avenues to be explored for tax generation, the Authority is poised to exceed the revenue target, again in 2020.
“In the informal sector for example, we raised a substantial amount of almost 400 million cedis in 2019 as against about 300 million cedis the previous year, but we believe that the tax opportunities for the informal sector are vast, so we are going to strategize.”
The Acting Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Rev. Ammishaddai Owusu Amoah, has described revenue mobilization for the state as steady during his tenure, but according to him there remain various areas where the Authority can fill the gaps to maximize its revenue mobilization.
“Though the customs duty or the import side saw a decline, we still are confident, from our own analysis of the data, that there are avenues where we can increase revenue for the state,” he said.
The Acting Commissioner General of GRA, speaking on Eye on Port’s live interactive platform, on Revenue Mobilization Goals: Assessing Policies and Addressing Variances, revealed that his outfit will deploy improved methods of digitization to meet its revenue target of 47 billion Ghana Cedis for 2020.
“One of the things we are going to do is the digitization. And you know the Vice President and the Government as a whole has been pushing the idea of a cashless economy. The economy’s increased use of electronic means of payment will make it easier for you to capture the revenues along the line,” he added.
He explained that the government is of the strong opinion that automation in tax payment would create a surge in tax compliance.
“Revenue generation would improve if we have an automated system where as soon as you pay immediately the tax is deducted and straight away it is credited to the tax authority. This is being used in some countries, even in Africa,” he continued.
The GRA boss disclosed that his outfit will ensure that registering of a Tax Identification Number will be requisite for all forms of business transactions in order to capture due taxes from all eligible tax payers especially those in the informal sector.
“Our aim is that this year, if you have to register your car, you have got to get a TIN, if you have to use the bank, you would need a TIN as well, if you have go to Lands to register your land, same. So, we are going to ensure that all these Government agencies are also enforcing this,” he revealed.
Overseas Commerce Ghana Ltd, a logistics company located in the Tema Port enclave has held an open day forum with its stakeholders to interact with them towards improved working relationship and also discuss trends in the logistics ecosystem.
Overseas Commerce, currently operates a terminal hub dedicated to export and refrigerated cargo, a customs bonded warehouse and a commercial cold store warehouse.
Chief Executive Officer of Overseas Commerce Ghana Ltd, Boaz Amiel, said the company, which originates from Israel, is putting in place measures to ensure that it becomes a one-stop logistical hub serving importers and exporters in Ghana.
“We are also lucky that just about 300 metres across the street, we have the entrance to the new expanded port, which is one of a kind in West Africa. And if any of the importers wants to move fast to get goods to our storage place, it is easier because we are close to the port,” he expressed.
The Commissioner of Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Col. Rtd Kwadwo Damoah, said his outfit, in addition to its primary mandate of generating revenue for the state, also seeks to provide the enabling environment for businesses to facilitate trade in the country, thus allowing OCGL to operate a customs bonded warehouse.
“We are also important facilitators of trade. So, if you have a partner who is in a position to assist in the realization of any of our goals, then we should be glad to be associated with them,” he expressed.
The Tema Branch Head of the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Monica Josiah, explained the importance of having a world class logistics ecosystem to boost export trade in Ghana and lauded companies like OCGL, which is contributing to the country’s export goals.
“It will make our country attractive, more industries will be set up here which will create jobs for people. It will boost our exports and it will enable Ghana to maximize the advantages that are associated with increased exports.”
Adam Imoru Ayarna, the Vice President of the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana, encouraged shippers to patronize such warehousing facilities in order to expedite their business processes.
“I don’t see why businesses would invest in warehouses when there are warehouse specialists around because it will add to your cost. So what is important is for you to make use of what exists and you will see that it will have an overall value to your business,” he urged.
The Ministry of Monitoring and Evaluation has organized its 2020 Results Fair to create the platforms for ministries, departments and agencies to provide the public with the results of policies and interventions that they have spearheaded.
The various Ministries, Departments and Agencies exhibited their results for the public to visit and ask questions about all initiated programs. The Minister of Transport, Kweku Ofori Asiamah, said considering the significance of the port and shipping industry to global commerce and Ghana’s national economic development, investments have been made not only to expand Ghana's ports, but the introduction of policies like the paperless clearance system has increased efficiency in doing business at the country’s ports.
“Initially, we had some few challenges. When we assumed office, the minimum hours that anybody could clear goods at the port was not less than 100 hours. Today, if you can pay your duties, you can clear your goods in less than 24hrs at Tema Port,” he stated.
The Minister of Trade, Alan Kwadwo Kyeremanteng, said his Ministry is embarking on an aggressive industrial transformational plan.
And so far, the 1D1F program has seen 58 companies already operating under its establishment, 26 projects to start in the 1st quarter of 2020, and 58 smaller scale manufacturing facilities being financed by the African Development Bank.
“These 58 small scale plants deliberately are being established to be owned by groups of graduates. The Government is providing a minimum amount of 200,000 US dollars for each of these youth groups to start something which they can develop on their own,” he revealed.
The Greater Kumasi Industrial city, which according to him would cover a 5000-acre multipurpose economic zone will incorporate the Boankra inland port to serve the hinterlands.
Joe Ghartey, Minister of Railway Development revealed that, progress has been made towards the construction of modern rail line that would connect Tema and Burkina Faso, and according to him, when the project is completed, it would serve the transit business route.
‘We are going to the last stage and hopefully within the first quarter, we would have chosen the contractor who will partner Ghana and Burkina, for construction to start within the third quarter of this year,” he said.
The President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, stated that the results fair, is a demonstration of the Government’s commitment to inclusivity and accountability.
“Not only does the Result Fair serve as a medium for opening engagement and interaction between ministries and the Ghanaian people but it also provides an avenue for the receipt of first time information and feedback about the success or otherwise of our programs,” he stated.
The Port of Takoradi has chalked another success in its vision to be the dominant oil and gas services hub for the West African sub-region, with Belmet 7, an Oil and Gas Logistics Fabrication Company based in the Port of Takoradi, delivering 7 suction piles, topside FPSO module, pigging skid and a hang off platform.
The pigging skid component of the project which regulates the flow and cleaning of pipelines, is the first ever topside FPSO module that has been wholly manufactured in Ghana. Belmet 7 was subcontracted by Subsea 7, who were originally contracted by Tullow to design, fabricate, install and integrate an Oil Offloading System, for Tullow in 2018.
This was in an effort to rectify the turret bearing failure which affected offloading capacity of FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, a floating production storage and offloading vessel operating in the Jubilee oil fields off the coast of Ghana.
Peter Amo-Bediako, Marketing and Public Affairs Manager of the Port of Takoradi, said the strategic collaboration with such oil and gas service providers, like Belmet 7 go a long way to create the enabling environment for the Port of Takoradi to fully realize its oil and gas ambitions.
“It positions Takoradi to attract more oil and gas companies into our enclave, so that logistically we can cost efficiently support the oil and gas production not only in Ghana but also the whole of West Africa,” he said.
A one-year anniversary has been held for the former Marketing and Public Affairs Manager of the Port of Tema, the late Josephine Asante who was murdered in cold blood at her Emefs residence.
Family and friends who were clad in white gathered at the Our Lady of Mercy Church in Tema Community One to thank God and also celebrate the life and memory of the late Josephine Asante.
A brother of the deceased, Patrick Kusi Adu expressed displeasure with the slow pace at which the Ghana Police is carrying out its investigations.
“We are very disappointed with the Ghana Police on results of investigative activities. It seems like we are still where we left off last year,” he complained.
He, however, expressed hope that the police will continue with their investigations so as to arrest whoever was responsible for the criminal act.
The Materials Manager at the Port of Tema, Philippa Amanda Armah who was a colleague to the deceased also called on the police not to give up the investigations.
“We are hoping that the police will continue with their investigations and bring us all closure so we will understand the circumstances of this horrific experience that we encountered last year,” she said
The Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr. Michael Luguje, has projected that in 2020, cargo volumes are likely to surge as both Tema and Takoradi Ports have positioned themselves as transhipment and oil and gas services hub respectively.
“We are looking forward to doing better. This is because Terminal 3 is going to attract more business in 2020. We think that our ports themselves are well geared to do much more than the previous years. Takoradi is also going to do more in the oil and gas services,” he stated.
The DG of GPHA, who appeared on Eye on Port’s panel discussion interactive platform to discuss GPHA’s Perspective of Ghana’s Port and Maritime Industry in 2019 and Projections for 2020, revealed that the Port Authority has made major investments to enable Ghana’s ports serve as an incentive for the facilitation of intra-African trade, following the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area.
“We have positioned our ports for global trade. And while we do that we also are looking forward to more intra-African trade going maritime,” he disclosed.
He revealed that the Port of Tema for instance has been positioned as the best in terms of infrastructure in the West and Central African sub-region ahead of all other ports in the sub-region.
“If you look at port infrastructure in the perspective of container capacity, Ghana is leading today in West and Central Africa,” he said.
He emphasized as well that, the MPS Terminal 3 within the Tema Port, operates on a first come first serve basis, and does not prioritize certain shipping lines, hence, giving the Tema Port a competitive advantage over other ports.
“MPS Terminal 3 is an independent multi-user terminal. You come and you are served based on your berthing window; the one who comes after you must wait. MPS is open to anyone who has container to come and load or offload in Tema Port,” he highlighted.
The investment made so far into the Port of Takoradi, according to Mr. Luguje will boost its import handling capacity comparable with that of Tema while augmenting its interventions to grow that of the export sector.
“We are expecting that, with all the expansion projects going on and the kind of direction the Western Region is going in the Oil Industry growth, we are going to see, in the coming years, Takoradi as an alternative port for import. It is going to give Tema a very good competition,” he said.
Michael Luguje described the year 2019 as a productive one in spite of the many challenges that faced the industry.
“We have not had December’s report yet but looking at January to November’s figures we are fortunate to see Tema Port’s total throughput growing by about 5% compared to 2018 and Takoradi recording about 21% compared to 2018,” he said.
He praised the Government’s initiatives for reducing benchmark values of duties expressing that these incentives would boost importers’ appetite to use Ghana’s port, as well as ease the cost of doing business in the country.
“Governments’ deliberate policy on the reduction of the benchmark values for customs duties was a very unique opportunity within the port sector. Because the expectation is that at least importers will find it more affordable to import. We expected it to encourage importers and traders to realise that they can now import at a relatively cheaper cost,” he applauded.
On transit trade, which he described as the most competitive part of the port business, Mr. Luguje said the Port Authority is doing a lot, including applying competitive tariffs, to woo cargo bound for the landlocked countries through the Ghanaian corridor.
“Last year we needed to reach out to the landlocked countries once again and be able to discuss quite a number of things and exchange a lot. Though we get a lot of feedback on the type of service that we provide, the quality of the service and their challenges but sometimes if you meet them at their own doorstep, where their businesses are established, they are able to share better experiences with you,” he said.
He, however urged the Customs Division to reconsider its decision of charging 17.5% VAT on transit cargoes saying it is a challenge the transit countries have lamented about.
“Normally transit cargo services should not have attracted VAT but unfortunately the GRA insists that VAT should be charged on tariffs for transit goods. The VAT is 17.5% which is quite significant. This is the major complaint of the importers and exporters of landlocked countries,” he advised.
He also said his outfit is collaborating with the Police to eliminate harassment on the Ghanaian corridor.
“Ideally, what the police should have done was on such checkpoints that are mainly for road security reasons, they should have allowed free passage of trucks that are carrying transit goods but naturally once they are on the road to deal with security matters the tendency to stop all trucks that come in and probably ask a few questions comes in. There is a lot of sensitisation going on in the police service now,” he revealed.
Mr. Michael Luguje also advocated for the improvement of Ghana’s rail infrastructure to give Ghana a major competitive advantage in the transit business.
He also explained the significance of having a revamped world class ship yard and repair facility in close proximity and expressed hope that government expedites processes that would lead to revamping the Tema Shipyard.
He revealed that an amount of 100million dollars would be required to fully revamp the Tema Shipyard. “The advantage we have is that if you have your shipyard close to your ports working well, what it means is that Shipping Lines can plan that we will just go and offload our cargo at Tema Port and quickly go to dry-dock for repairs. This is advantageous because Shipping Lines will not say that they will not go and offload cargoes in Tema and sail empty to a faraway shipyard for repairs,” he revealed.
The Director General of GPHA disclosed that by 3rd quarter of 2020 GPHA will have a consultant to provide full feasibility studies on the Keta Port in order to have the blueprint needed to develop that port.
“We want this particular consultant to work faster than that. We need results before the end of 2020 so that we have a clear mind by the time we start 2021 how we are going to develop the port of Keta,” he said.
Mr. Luguje cleared the erroneous conception regarding loss of revenue through transfers of containers from on-dock terminals to off dock terminals and requested that customs reverse its decision on the reefer terminal.
“Reefer containers cannot and have never been the subject of any loss. Because of that directive GPHA’s investment in the reefer terminal is virtually going to waste. We have petitioned customs and they are considering exempting the reefer containers from that directive,” he stated.
Mr. Michael Luguje who doubles as the President of the Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) also clarified the impression that the Port of Lome operates a free port system describing it as a misconception.
On having GPHA as an authority with overarching responsibility that regulates and steers the affairs of other operators within the ports behaviour, the Director-General revealed that there is a legislation that backs GPHA with such a mandate but has largely been disregarded and agreed to an earlier submission by the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on transport to have cabinet intervene on the matter.
“We already have that mandate to be able to make sure that anybody that is operating within the port no matter the authority should listen to the advice and direction of the Port Authority as long as it does not prevent you from performing your statutory function,” he said.
Michael Luguje encouraged stakeholders of the port including traders to take advantage of his open door policy to collaborate and improve Ghana’s port industry for national economic growth.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority has awarded its hardworking staff for their contributions to the growth of the Authority. The award ceremony came off during the annual thanksgiving service of the Port Authority.
This included best worker awards from each department of the Authority, as well as overall awards for Tema Port and Headquarters respectively.
Some notable names were Edward Johnson and Josephine Ankrah who were best Senior Staff workers for 2016, Tema Port and Head Quarters respectively.
Eric Adjei Ablorh, and Mark Ayeebo Akugri were best Junior Staff workers for 2016, Tema Port and Head Quarters respectively.
Rita Essel, and Francis Marfo, were awarded best Senior Staff workers for 2017, Tema Port and Head Quarters respectively.
Eric Oduro and Frederick Kyei, were awarded best Junior Staff workers for 2017, Tema Port and Head Quarters respectively. The General Manager Administration of GPHA, Mr. Alec Oppong, expressed that the awards program is positioned to celebrate staff for their passion and unflinching commitment to the work of the Authority and urged other staff to emulate such enduring efforts.
“The Authority is proud to have staff who for many years have worked with dedication, commitment and loyalty and because of that the Authority has earned much respect that we’re enjoying today,” he said.
The Staff Union executives called on all workers to gear up massively for the year ahead, as GPHA is about to experience significant growth.
“We urge every worker to be part of everything that will go on so that we can move GPHA on and secure our jobs,” the Senior Staff Union Chairman of Tema Port, Henry Kuivi encouraged.
The Staff and Management of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority have held their annual thanksgiving Service to appreciate the goodness of the Lord for a successful 2019.
The workers of GPHA shared the moment of worship and thanksgiving with other stakeholder organisations who have collaborated consistently with the Port Authority in the day to day activities within Ghana’s port and maritime industry.
Led by the GPHA Choir, the group sang and danced away their gratitude in hymns and songs of praises.