In May 2017, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia at a Port Efficiency Conference in Accra, announced three-point policy directives aimed at improving Ghana’s Port sector.
The directives included:
1. The Ports of Ghana should go 100 percent paperless
2. All customs barriers should be removed from Ghana’s transit corridor and
3. Mandatory Joint Inspection at the Ports.
These directives were to take place on 1st September, 2017 to improve the competitiveness of the ports and businesses in the country.
Firstly, the paperless policy was aimed at improving the clearance procedures at the Ports of Ghana by eliminating delays. This was also to improve ports efficiency for accelerated national development.
It was the expectation of the Vice President that goods should be cleared from the Ports within 4 hours.
Secondly, the removal of customs barriers on the transit corridors was to ensure free flow of goods from the Ports of Ghana to transit countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
Prior to this directive, several complaints had been raised on the high number of customs barriers on Ghana’s corridor which was said to be impeding the transportation of goods to their destinations.
Thirdly, the mandatory joint inspection at the Ports directive was expected to reduce the multiplicity of regulatory agencies who conduct inspections at the Ports and compel them to conduct their inspections jointly.
Exactly a year after the policy, Eye on Port engaged some industry players to pick up their thoughts as to whether the policy has been beneficial and whether indeed the process for the clearance of goods at the Ports has improved as a result of the paperless policy.
The stakeholders which include Ghana Union of Traders Association, Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Customs House Brokers of Ghana, among others revealed that the paperless system has helped improve the clearance process as they are able to receive Customs classification valuation report (CCVR) within 24hours compared to previously which was 3 days.
The Long Room which is an area for payment of customs duty has been scrapped with the coming into force of the paperless system.
This decision also received the commendation from the stakeholders who argued that the human interface had been removed.
The President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obengsaid the removal of the Long Room reduced some stress clearing agents and importers go through.
The stakeholders were also happy about the fact that the joint inspection has been very effective since September 1. The Vice President later announced that regulatory agencies who carry out inspections at the Ports have been reduced from 13 to 3.
However, on this directive, some stakeholders think it should be reduced further because there is still a duplicity of role.
Executive Director of Hail Him Shippers, Nana Akwesi Serebour Boateng argued that even though the inspection agencies have been reduced to 3 which are Customs, Ghana Standard Authority and Food and Drugs Authority, Customs has several sections under them which must be looked at.
Despite the successes chalked, the President of GIFF, Kwabena Ofosu Appiah, however, maintained that there is the need for a government structure to be put in place to ensure free flow of information.
The IT technician for Sam Shipping, Ewuraba Apaloo called for the shipping lines to be integrated into the PAARS which is Pre Arrival Assessment Reporting System so as to reduce the clearance time further.
The stakeholders say they want enough consultations before policies are rolled so as not to suffer setbacks.
On the issue of removal of Customs barriers, the National President of Borderless Alliance, Ziad Hamoui said it is commendable as it has made Ghana’s transit corridors very competitive.
He said the removal of the customs barriers will make Ghana the economic gateway to West Africa.