Port Health And Plant Quarantine Bemoan Poor Coordination Among Agencies At The Port

The Port Health Unit, and Plant Quarantine Services, have admitted their inabilities in executing some of their mandates in the Port clearance chain as a result of absence of coordination among agencies that work in the Port.

Addressing issues regarding the roles in the Port clearance chain, during a live television engagement with Eye on Port, the Director of Port Health, Raphael John Marfo, admitted that their control is limited, as disinfection of cargo itself is not attained. The Director of Port Health said, his outfit is only able to disinfect the exterior parts of containers which carry cargo. Hence, vectors and pests inside cargoes are not eliminated since cargoes are sealed.

“What port health is currently doing is disinfection of containers and that started this May. And we are taking care of microbes of public health importance not vectors of public health importance. Because until the containers are opened you cannot see vectors in there,” he revealed.

Raphael John Marfo revealed that, the Port Health is also currently embarking on a thorough disinfection of the areas in and around the port against rodents, who can spread diseases or destroy cargo.

According to him, it is in this light that, all food vendors in the port area are issued with medical certificates that license their businesses.

The Port Health Director also admitted that although his outfit is mandated to vaccinate every individual who works around the Port, that is all port users, this aspect of their job is yet to be fulfilled.

“For now, we haven’t vaccinated everyone at the port. We are still educating the stakeholders,” he admitted.

He said the Port Health Unit, is established in Ghana, to check and forestall any public health risk of international concern at the ports.

The Director of Port Health added that, his outfit is mandated to ensure all constituents of vessels that call Ghana’s ports, are compliant with all WHO regulations on spread of diseases as well as instil local public health conventions on food and hygiene.

Deputy Director of Plant Quarantine, Prudence Attipoe, said his outfit is a technical directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture whose core mandate is to prevent, the introduction and spread of pests of plants and plant products.

He said, the regulation is done through inspection of cargo elements which he described as pathways for the conveyance of pests and parasites.

According to Prudence Attipoe, a major problem of the Plant Quarantine is currently their inability to inspect plants and plant products that are imported by the free zone companies due to some free zones laws. 

“Because they are free zones, they do not pass through the red channel for inspection. They go through the green channel, but they bring in plants” he bemoaned.

On the currents customs risk management regime in place which allows for only a category of goods, that are labelled red, to be subjected to physical inspection, the Plants Quarantine Deputy Director, said it is making it difficult for his outfit to be in full control what pests and parasites make it into our country, as goods not subjected to physical examination may be potential carriers of such pests and parasites.

“If the containers are scanned, that is where we have the challenge because some do not pass through the red channel for us to do the physical inspection,” Prudence Attipoe added.

Also, the joint inspection directive by the Government only allows 3 agencies to be involved in physical inspection process at the port. The two health regulatory agencies, Port Health and Plant Quarantine asked for closer collaborations between these mandated inspected agencies with their outfits, whenever cargo that may pose threat to public health are being inspected in order to apply their expertise and prevent clearance of unhealthy goods, and their accompanying pests and parasites.

“If a custom officer sees something that is not in his domain, he is supposed to refer to the necessary agency. In other countries that is what they do and they still work effectively,” the Plant Quarantine official lamented.

“Maybe we need to have a second look at those supposed to conduct the joint inspection. If it is three agencies, they need to coordinate with the others that matter,” Director of Port Health admonished.

Prudence Attipoe stated, that certificates are issued to complaint plant and plant products which are exported or imported through Ghana’s ports.

The Director of Port Health, Raphael John Marfo suggested that an overarching institution, like the GPHA to regulate all inspections is needed to manage all the lapses associated with inspection and clearance, to ensure efficiency.

“I equally put the responsibility on the shoulders of the Port Authority who I believe should coordinate inspection activities. I think they can bring us under one supervision, because all these are state institutions.”

Both Port Health and Plant Quarantine expressed worry over the fact that agencies who work in the Port Clearance Chain, work in silos which is a major bottleneck to Trade Facilitation.

“In Ghana, stakeholders, especially state institutions are working in silos. Everyone wants to take all the credit. For instance, this issue is on health, but they take health out of the equation,” the Director of the Port Health Unit, bemoaned.

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