Business News of 2014-02-14

GPHA, shipping agents tango over BoG directives

The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) and shipping agents are in a tango over the payment of port charges in dollars, in view of directives by the Bank of Ghana.

While the GPHA insists that it is empowered by law to demand the payment of port charges in dollars, agents of ships- providing oil and gas services, as well as ocean-going vessels, are questioning why state institutions in charge of the maritime industry continue to collect their payments in dollars instead of cedis following the bank’s directives.

On February 5, 2014, the Bank of Ghana (BoG) announced measures to shore up the cedi against the major foreign currencies.

As part of the measures, the central bank said over-the-counter cash withdrawals from foreign exchange and foreign currency accounts not exceeding US$10,000 shall only be permitted for travel purposes outside Ghana or its equivalent in convertible currency per person per travel.

The directives also said all undrawn foreign currency-denominated facilities should be converted into local currency-denominated facilities.

Currently, charges collected at the Takoradi Harbour for the services of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) and the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA), are dollar-denominated.

However, the GPHA said the dollar-denominated charges could not be changed in the face of the directive from the Bank of Ghana and the Finance ministry.

Shipping agents

In separate interviews, some of the companies told the Daily Graphic that although they were not against the directives from the central bank, they had a problem with state institutions that would not accept the cedi for payment even after the directives had been issued.

“If only GPHA would accept cedis, we will not have any problem with the current BoG directive, but once GPHA is requesting for dollars for charges totalling over $100,000 and the Bank of Ghana directive has set a limit of $10,000 then we have a huge problem on our hands,” the Manager of Macro Shipping Group, Mr Dela Husunukpe, said.

The Head of Public Affairs at the GPHA, Mr Kumi Adjei-Sam, explained that the GPHA’s dollar-denominated fees were backed by law and, therefore, the authority was not doing anything wrong.

“We are aware of the directives by the Bank of Ghana and the ministry but I can tell you that for port charges, we are in a different regime,” he said.

Mr Adjei-Sam said the only way forward was for the stevedoring companies to come together and forward their problems to the port or call for a meeting for discussion of the issues.

Shippers’ Authority

For its part, the Ghana Shippers Authority said it would continue to quote its service charges in dollars.

The Western Regional Manager of the authority, Mrs Monica Josiah, said the agents were only acting on behalf of their principals.