The Ghana Union of Traders Association has bemoaned high fees charged by agencies at the ports of Ghana, saying it has a rippling effect on the trade economy of the nation.
“The shipping charges are too astronomical because currently as I speak not a single trader is happy with the charges at Tema Port. We have had many meetings with the finance ministry and they will tell you that we need money and because they need money traders are suffering,” the Greater Accra Regional Secretary of the GUTA, Nana Poku lamented.
The Greater Accra Regional Secretary of the Traders Association, Nana Poku, addressing the challenges traders face in the country, on the Eye on Port program, live on national television, said these fees charged by service providers, especially that of shipping lines are not regulated and called upon statutory heads, especially the Ghana Shippers Authority who should advocate on their behalf to take on the responsibility to correct the deficiencies.
“This is where government should sit down and look into this; make sure Ghana Shippers Authority is well empowered to bring such companies to book,” he admonished.
The Head of Shipper Services at the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, Naa Densua Aryeetey said her outfit who has the mandate to advocate for shippers, including importers and exporters of cargo, said there has been difficulty in creating a cost-efficient environment for shippers in the country due to resistance from agencies who offer services at the port.
“It’s a very thorny issue. And we have had difficulty sitting down with the shipping lines to do that,” she revealed.
According to her, the existing legislation the Shippers’ Authority acts which allows the agency to negotiate rather than enforce, is limited and stated the need for new laws, to back the Authority’s mandate.
“Both of you have said that the Ghana Shippers Authority needs to be empowered and it’s the fact. We need to look at the law again, the law came out as far back as 1974,” she suggested.
She however disclosed that her outfit embarks on constant sensitization programs with traders, to educate them on reforms and developments in the sector as well as publish the fees and charges on the Shippers’ Authority website to keep in close communication with clients of the port.
“We meet them, apart from our shipper committees they attend. These include the used clothing traders, mobile phones dealers, etc. We go to them frequently.”
Naa Densua Aryeetey, said Ghana Shippers’ Authority has currently signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with the Shipping Lines in order to ensure that the latter doesn’t unilaterally increase its charges.
“The Transport Ministry, came in and we signed an MoU with the Shipping Lines and agreed that anytime they are introducing new fees, they should inform us, so we can also discuss with the importers, and exporters,” she said.
Nana Poku asked service providers to compromise on certain service charges to bring ease to importers.
“The technicalities these service providers use to justify the payments are not of paramount interest to traders. They are typically interested in getting their cargoes out of the port on time and being able to sell them to be able to pay monies they owe especially to the banks,” he asserted.
On port handling charges, he appealed for further reduction to relieve the local market which he described as struggling to make up losses.
He admitted that GUTA has not done enough in bringing their concerns formally to the necessary authorities and assured they would, in order to get the needed attention.
The Ghana Union of Traders Association, and the Ghana Shippers’ Authority resolved to collaborate more closely, as a matter of urgency, to eradicate the problem of unregulated fees particularly by private institutions at Ghana’s ports.
“If Ghana Shippers’ Authority is interested, the Greater Accra office of GUTA can give them office space to operate, and after the program we would work towards that, so we can collaborate more quickly towards improving the situation,” the GUTA executive proposed.