Advocacy to improve Efficiency and Reduce the Cost of Doing Business at the Port
The Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GNCCI) with support from the Business Sector Advocacy Challenge Fund (BUSAC) organized a Stakeholders' workshop on Advocacy to Improve Efficiency and Reduce the Cost of Doing Business at the ports at the Ghana Shippers' House on Thursday, 24th August, 2017. The workshop, which recorded over 160 participants, was chaired by Nana Dr. Appiagyei Dankanwoso I, President of GNCCI and had in attendance the Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Hon. Kingsley Carlos Ahenkorah, Director of Ports, Mr. Edward K. Osei, Fund Manager of BUSAC, Nicolas Gebara and representatives from the Ghana Revenue Authority (Customs Division), Ghana Shippers' Authority, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, business associations, and business men and women of the Ghanaian business community. The workshop was organized purposely to discuss the implementation plan of the reseearch findings and any additional recommendation critical for improving operations at the ports.
In presenting the research report, Mr. Julius Bradford Lamptey, Head of Research and Advocacy - GNCCI noted that the research involved key operators in the port business including the Ministry of Transport, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Ghana Shippers' Authority, Ghana Revenue Authority - Customs Division, Ghana Exports and Promotion Authority, Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, Sea Freight Pineapple Exporters of Ghana, Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, agents, and 400 importers and exporters.
The research showed that Ghana's ports have standard facilities but these are overstretched given the volumes of trade recorded in recent times. There are long container dwell times at the two seaports (Takoradi - 25 days, Tema - 20 days) which compares unfavourably with Durban (4 days), Mombasa (11 days), Dar El Salaam (11 days) and Lome (18 days). This long dwell time has cost implications for importers and exporters in addition to the more than 20 different steps and processes as well as presence of 16 different institutions of state in the port operations. There are significant delays caused by equipment breakdowns, human interference, congestion and duplication of roles. Further, the use of unofficial channels including paying for the services of middlemen and women adds up to the cost. Finally, there is informatin gap between the importers and exporters on the one hand, and the agents on the other hand. The view is that the agents tend to exploit the information gap to their advantage and increase costs for importers and exporters.
Following the findings, the research recommended that, while acknowledging the on-going port expansion programmes, port expansion programmes should be undertaken on a continuous basis given the growing levels of international trade. This should consider both equipment and physical space within the ports and the adjoining communities. Second, there is need to streamline and simplify procedures and processes at the ports and this should be done taking on board concerns from stakeholders for an effective implementation. Third, a review ofthe institutions at the ports must be done to eliminate some of them and avoid costly duplications. The supporting agencies that remain should not be allowed to use importers and exporters as cash cows for internally generated funds. Finally, the agency system needs urgent review. One way is extensive education programmes to bridge the information gap between agents adn all other users of the ports in Ghana.
The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry commended the Chamber for taking the port issue up. In his remarks, the Deputy Minister reiterated that, issues of the ports are dear to the heart of the Government and the Ministry as well, and working around the clock to resolve the challenges as shown in research report by the Chamber. He noted that it is government’s objective to Ghana's port efficient and less costly. He also emphasized that the call for paperless system led by H.E. Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, Vice President of Republic of Ghana, demonstrates government’s willingness and readiness to deal with the unnecessary delays and the associated cost of doing business at the ports.
According to Mr.Samuel Ntow-Kummi, from the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, the problem of cost and delay are not new and in attempting to solve them, there was the need to address specific agencies and not just generalize the whole issue. He suggested that it was important to identify the institutions that are contributign to the delays and costs of doing business at the ports. He again made mention of some infrastructural development that GPHA has undertaken and stated that, infrastructural development at the port is done in batches because it is very expensive and are done to meet the demands as and when needed.
He also indicated GPHA's readiness to go with the paperless system and that they have put in place some measures to enable them go paperless on 1st September, 2017. Some of the measures put in place included the payment of monies through mobile money, visa cards and pay at any bank. Also, customers can now make request online through GCNet and would not have to walk into their offices. Once a request is made, GPHA will generate an invoice and send to the person which could be paid through mobile money, visa cards at any bank.
The President of the Chamber, Nana Dr. Appiagyei Dankawoso I, remarked that importers and exporters should desist from under-declaring their goods. He empasized that "accurate information is very critical to the paperless system." He pointed out that the issue of miscellaneous, understood as photocopying costs and bribe, should be reviewed and eliminated. Further, the issues of 7-days rent free should be reviewed. He streesed that, "... in reality, we are not enjoying the seven days as these are being eroded by weekends and public holidays.
He assured all participants that the GNCCI is very resolute in developing targeted business services and will always keep the government on its toes to ensure that challenges faced by exporters and importers are addressed. In addition, the Chamber is a strategic partner of the government and being part of the Chamber adds value to one’s business. He encouraged participants to always be innovative and strike for exccellence. He noted that the Chamber will champion the course of members of the business community and create the enabling environment for all businesses to excel.