Hundreds of containers locked up at Tema Port
Hundreds of containers have piled up at the Tema Port because of court injunctions. During a visit to the port by the Daily Graphic it was discovered that three categories of containers form the majority of uncleared cargo at the port.
The first category consists of containers with the court injunctions on them; the second, containers being held up because of unpaid taxes, while the third category is made up of containers with their contents declared and taxes paid but which cannot be cleared because of problems facing the various shipping lines.
In an interview, the Chief Revenue Officer in charge of State Warehouse, Tema Port, Mr Malik Alhassan Mahama, said per the Ghana Customs Law, PNDC Law 330 of 1993, Customs dared not touch all the three categories of containers.
He said Customs had its last public auction of general goods on January 7, 2014 as part of its mandate to auction overstayed cargo and added that before goods were auctioned, they were gazetted and the auction took place 14 days after the gazette. He, however, welcomed any move that would help the Customs Division decongest the port.
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GHAPOHA), when contacted, also welcomed any intervention that would decongest the ports.
In a separate interview with the Daily Graphic in Tema, the Marketing and Public Relations Manager of GHAPOHA at the Tema Port, Mr Paul Asare-Ansah, said “what is important is not to have another agency to do what the Customs Division of Ghana Revenue Authority have been mandated to do”, but rather necessary to remove all bottlenecks that restrained Customs from executing its mandate.
According to him, under normal circumstances, unclaimed cargo which had been in the port after 21 days was transferred to Customs for them to process the cargo for auction. He also recognised challenges, both administrative or logistic, that prevented Customs from carrying out its mandate and called for the creation of an enabling environment for the mandated organisation to perform its role.
Mr Asare-Ansah said it was strange that somebody would import cargo and willfully abandon such goods. He was of the view that the challenges creating such situation for importers should be addressed to enable importers to complete transactions to avoid their cargo being put under the unclaimed cargo list (UCL).
He advised importers to be well-informed on the processes and seek assistance from custom brokers about their tax obligations, freight charges and other financial obligations. He said they could also seek information from websites of organisations, with support from the Ghana Shippers Authority.
Mr Asare-Ansah called on importers to engage qualified freight forwarders who would perform their work diligently to ensure that importers cleared their goods within the stipulated period.
He was quick to note the increasing taxes which had been a challenge to importers and called for sufficient grace periods to enable them, seek financial support, noting that “overnight increases have contributed to delay of clearance at the ports”.
According to the law, goods that are not cleared within 30 days for general goods and 21 days for perishable goods would be disposed of through public auction.
Special Operations Unit
The Special Operations Unit at the Presidency recently announced that it had intensified the decongestion of all ports of entry and warned that goods that were not cleared within the stipulated 30 days for general goods and 21 days for perishable goods would be disposed off through public auction.
The unit was set up by President John Dramani Mahama and is headed by the Chief of Staff, Mr Prosper Douglas Bani. In the latter part of 2013, the unit uncovered duty fraud involving more than 250 state agencies and private companies. The companies were said to have managed to escape payment of approximately $367 million import duties at bonded warehouses between 2005 and 2012.