The Ghana Shippers’ Authority has asked shipping lines operating in the country to ensure clarity and transparency in their tariffs, an expedited refund system, and also entrench common standards of service quality as a way of improving the ease of doing business at the country’s seaports.
The authority also wants from the liners standard operating procedures—including for digitised services that they provide to shippers—to ensure that the industry reaps the needed benefits that come with the digitalisation of the shipping business, especially at a time that the industry is recovering from the harms of the pandemic.
The recommendations come on the back of sustained allegations by some maritime and trade associations that shipping lines are engaging in arbitrary increases in fees and charges.
“Negotiations with shipping lines on their charges revealed a plethora of inexplicable charges, whilst others were engaged in blacklisting clearing agents for outstanding debts on previous transactions. These actions were detrimental to innocent consignees who subsequently had to make colossal demurrage payments and have equally impacted the rising cost of doing business at Ghana’s ports,” Chief Executive Officer of the authority, Ms. Benonita Bismarck, told a gathering of shipping stakeholders at the 2021/2022 cocoa freight negotiations conference in Accra.
A number of trade associations in the maritime industry, including freighters, importers and exporters and brokers, have bemoaned what they described as arbitrary increases in cost of freight and associated service charges by shipping lines.
But the liners have responded that the increases reflect the harsh impact of the pandemic across the shipping value chain, whilst other costs such as demurrage are entirely avoidable if shippers return containers to the liners on time.
Currently, over 8,000 boxes are estimated to be on the Uncleared Cargo List—a category for goods that have overstayed at the ports but the applicable duties on them have not been paid, and they may have to be auctioned to recoup rent and other associated costs to the state.
According to Ms. Bismarck, the situation has prompted the composition of an industry-wide committee to come up with a standard operating procedure that will govern the administration of uncleared cargo to give sufficient clarity to stakeholders relevant to the process.
One key expected outcome of this exercise, she indicated, will be to expedite the release of the landed boxes or containers to the shipping lines.
The GSA boss has however commended the shipping lines for digitising their operations and services to offer convenient and real-time services to shippers.
Those digital interventions, she admitted, have greatly enhanced the competitiveness of shippers in Ghana and also complemented government’s efforts at moving towards a digital economy.