Business News of 2014-06-19

Maritime industry says it needs a fund

A centralised fund is urgently needed to bankroll needed reforms in the maritime industry such as structural re-alignment and modernisation of laws, conventions and activities to fall in line with international best practices.
“Such a fund would be fed by the many scattered bits of charges paid by stakeholders to some public entities whose activities tend to overlap each other and therefore slow down the pace of development in the maritime industry”, Mr Adam Imoru Ayarna, Vice President, Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), has suggested.
He told the GNA in an interview in Tema the time had come for all able and willing stakeholders to contribute meaningfully and in a focused and coordinated manner to the development of the maritime industry.
According to him, the fund would be best managed by fund managers under the direct supervision of “maybe Parliament and the Ministry of Transport and laws and regulations on the generation and disbursement of funds should be clear and unambiguous.”
Mr Ayarna said records of only nine members of the ship owners and agents paid in excess of 9 million dollars and 12 million dollars in 2012 and 2013 respectively to only one of these regulatory bodies.
He said there was no impact to be seen of such payments on the maritime industry adding that the tax/levy regime and charges by supposed regulators were over concentrating on vessels.
He said soon the already high cost of doing business at Ghana’s ports would increase further and would deter potential investors, reduce the investment injection by existing companies and reduce vessel calls which could have a negative impact on port revenues and the national economy in general.
Mr Ayarna said recently the Ghana Maritime Authority stated that it had contracted a 15 million euro loan to implement the very important Vessel Traffic Management Information System (VTMIS), an integrated system to enhance continuous electronic surveillance of the entire coast of Ghana.
According to Mr Ayarna, the system which is under the ambit of the Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) could easily have been funded by a maritime fund and would have saved the tax payer the burden of loan repayment.
“I, for one, would want such a fund to be managed by the Ghana Maritime Authority under the direction of Parliament. Since it would count as a public fund, the Auditor General would audit it periodically and that would be one of the good things ever to happen to the maritime industry in a long while.”
He said Ghana’s relative peace, security and democratic credentials make its ports attractive and that “we should take advantage of these virtues and make the maritime environment more conducive for business.”
In a related development, Mr Samson Awingobit Asaki, President, Exporters and Importers Association of Ghana, has called on the GMA to be up and doing in its regulatory duties and obligations.
He told the Ghana News Agency that there was a regulatory leadership vacuum in the maritime industry which has led to tax, duties and charge uncertainties, corruption, turf fighting among supposed regulators and stakeholders.
According to him, importers pay in excess of 30 million dollars as charges to regulators annually but very little is done with so much.
He suggested to the government to make the Ghana Shipper Authority (GSA) a private entity and redefine its role as an advocate of importers and exporters as its current status has deprived it of the “will and power” to properly carry out its original mandate.