The Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) is seeking parliamentary approval for the removal of the value-added tax (VAT) on transit trade, in a move that could reduce cost and bolster the tonnage of transshipment.
The Chief Executive Officer of the GSA, Dr Kofi Mbiah, said currently, the authority was collating views from the various stakeholders and would present a paper to parliament as soon as it was ready.
He made this known when the Minister for Transport, Mr Fiifi Kwetey, paid a familiarisation visit to the new office edifice of the GSA.
He said the VAT on transit trade had made the ports of the country unattractive to traders.
The declining trend in transit trade through the country’s corridors over the last few years shifted into the first quarter of 2015, when it recorded a further reduction in trade volumes, compared to the previous year’s figure.
Transit trade in the country has been on the downside in recent years as statistics from the GSA for the first quarter of 2015 indicated that a total of 152,022 tonnes of cargo were carted by major transit traders such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger along the country’s transit routes.
This represented a 36 per cent reduction, compared to 2014, when total transit trade stood at 238,002 tonnes during that period.
The Minister of Transport, Mr Fiifi Kwetey, for his part, said there was the need to factor competitiveness in the operations of the country and not just think about short-term revenue, adding that, with competitiveness, the country would be assured of future and continued revenue.
He also said the ministry would continue to provide support to the GSA and help in the integration of its work with the single-window system.
Construction work on the Ghana Shippers House, a US$16.5 million multipurpose office complex, has been completed and handed over to the owners, the Ghana Shippers' Authority (GSA).
The building, which is located at the Ambassadorial Enclave at Ridge in Accra, will serve as head office for the authority and a one-stop shop for shipping and related service providers in the country.
With the structure now ready for use, Dr Mbiah said the vision of the authority, which is to provide a one-stop shop for the industry, would be realised, much to the benefit of shippers, players in the provision of logistics services and the country at large.
"After 35 years, we think that it is time now for us to have our building. It will enhance our service delivery, provide real-time information on shipping to enhance knowledge and improve our cash flow," he said.
Touching on the various facilities offered by the building, Dr Mbiah said it has a 540-seater capacity conference hall, a restaurant, committee rooms for the Shipper Committees of the GSA and a corporate boardroom.
There is also space for a Knowledge and Information Centre and a Freight Exchange similar to the Stock Exchange, where real-time information on shipping-related matters, including charter rates, container hiring and warehousing would be displayed and made available to the shipping and general public.
"It will be fitted with computers and satellite connectivity such that when you enter the Freight Exchange, you can go to a particular screen and it will display various prices, rates, charges and information, depending on your need. It will also serve as a base for fixing charters”.
Additionally, Dr Mbiah said the building would host a Maritime Arbitration Centre where disputes in the industry could be arbitrated.
These services, the CEO said, were part of a grand scheme by the Shippers' Authority to help enhance Ghana's image as a preferred destination for shipping solutions in the sub-region.
Although the authority is the sole owner of the building, Dr Mbiah said the GSA would be renting every space it occupies in the Ghana Shippers House. That, he said, was part of an arrangement meant to ensure that the structure contributed meaningfully to the cash flow of the organisation.
He added that the building currently had over 6,000 square metres of lettable space, which makes it possible for interested institutions to rent spaces for their offices.
So far, about three institutions, including Citi Investments Ltd and Citi Bank of the United States of America, have rented spaces there.