The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has tasked the Acting Director General of the Ghana Ports and Habour Authority (GPHA) to facilitate the seamless integration of the IT platforms of both GPHA and Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in the management of the ports operations.
He said the establishment of a seamless integration between the GPHA and Customs is part of government’s efforts in introducing reforms in Ghana’s ports industry to ensure efficiency and compliance.
According to Dr. Bawumia, the country’s ports have become bottlenecks in Ghana’s trade because they do not meet international standard, hence the need for government to put in place policies that will make it easier to do business.
The Vice President was speaking at the 39th Council Meeting and Conference of Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) in Accra last Monday under the theme; “Best Practices In The Management Of Port Land And Estates.”
Dr. Bawumia insisted Ghana needs to improve operations at the ports to enable easy trade relations and ensure that operations at the ports can meet international standard so as to improve trade competitiveness.
He averred that government of Ghana is committed to ensuring that ports operations are improved for them to make Ghana a destination of choice in the West African Sub-region.
Dr. Bawumia indicated that, in efforts government had already implemented some policies which are bringing significant positive impact on the operations of the ports and revenue mobilization.
He said significant strides have been made in container handling at the ports, stressing that there has been an increase from 70 to 90 containers per hour per vessel at the Tema Port due to improved infrastructure.
He also averred that the port expansion projects at both Tema and Takoradi ports will go a long way to increase container handling and ensure efficiency saying that the Tema Port expansion when completed will handle 3.5 million TEUs of Cargos per annum, as against 1 million TEUs it is currently handling.
The Takoradi Port, he said will also have the capacity to take 1 million TEUs of containers as against 60,000 currently.
According to the Vice President when both ports expansion projects are completed, both facilities will allow Ghana to handle 4.9m TEUs of cargos and bring efficiency in cargo handling as it will reduce waiting time at ports and reducing cost of doing business.
Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia also averred that government had eradicated all barriers that businesses encounter at the ports and that with the introduction of the paperless system, unnecessary complex procedures at the port are no more, hence the road to achieving international standards in conformity with trade facilitation agreements.
He said: “The number of agencies undertaking joint inspections at the ports will be reduced to three from the current 16. This forms part of the comprehensive reforms being made to the paperless system at the ports after it was reviewed by relevant stakeholders in the sector.”
Dr Bawumia said the compliance stage of the clearance process has also been abolished as it has become redundant under the new system, explaining that the functions will be performed by the Customs Technical Services Bureau (CTSB) which will undertake and deal with duplications in the compliance stage of the clearance processes.
He indicated that the reforms had become increasingly necessary because some persons within the export and import ecosystem were flouting the regulations.
The government, he revealed also intends to implement the First Port Duty Rule at Ghana’s ports in order to tackle smuggling arising from diverted transit goods supposedly meant for landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.
According to him, under the First Port Duty Rule, Customs officials of the landlocked nations will be stationed at Ghana’s ports, and the importer will be directed to the appropriate country desk to pay if indeed it is a transit good.
The Acting Director of the Ghana Ports and Habour Authority (GPHA) Mr. Michael Luguje in his welcome address noted land management is predicted to be a major challenge as the ports traffic grows with the competing needs of municipal and urban authorities for development.
Michael Luguje continued that “In some countries, there is conflict between Municipality and Port Authority. In other places, the Port Authority finds itself leasing out land to private operators to the point where the Port itself now lacks the resource to be able to develop into much more Port business.”
According to him most of the ports in the Sub-region have made full use of the Port land available and therefore are becoming more constrained as far as expansion of their ports is concerned.
He said the development has pushed some countries to take steps to reclaim land from the sea at heavy costs.
Michael Luguje enumerated that GPHA has made a critical policy decision to pursue the agenda of increasing the capacity of the Ports of Ghana to enhance operational efficiency and facilitate international business in the sub-region.
“To this end, we currently have to reclaim about 110 hectares of land to enable us build a 3.5 million TEUs Container Terminal at Tema at a cost of over USD $1 billion. Similarly, about 61.9 hectares of land was reclaimed in the port of Takoradi to build Bulk Jetty and the Multi-purpose Termina,” he said.
“Land is the most important asset of any port community and managing Port lands is under different experiences that different Ports have to share and that is why this theme was chosen carefully in the light of growing needs for land where there is serious competition between Municipality and Urban needs of land and the Port that needs land for trade and Port business development,” he said.
The Acting GPHA Boss also averred that due to the reforms that the government of Ghana undertook in the maritime and ports industry, there has been remarkable increase in State revenue and the cost and time of doing business have improved at the ports.
Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) is a sub-regional intergovernmental economic organisation, made up of twenty two regular member Ports and Nine Associate members including landlocked Countries and Maritime Organisations, all located along the West Coast of the Africa Continent Stretching from Mauritania to Angola.
The 39th PMAWCA Annual council meeting brought together international maritime port community with about 15 Director-Generals of member Ports of West and Central Africa participating.
Issues of management of port lands vis-a-vis best practices have been discussed where strategies were adopted on how best Port Authorities can optimise land use in their various port environments.
Exhibitors from across the world that provide services for Ports were also present to exhibit their various services.
By: PROSPER AGBENYEGA