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Oil, Cocoa To Boost Maritime Trade   
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The Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) is optimistic that cocoa and oil exports will boost the country’s maritime trade growth this year, but it is worried the upcoming elections may take some shine off the performance.

“We are hoping that COCOBOD will sustain the 1million tonnes of cocoa achieved last year. We are also expecting our oil exports to increase this year.

“But our studies have shown that in an election year, our maritime trade slows down in the first quarter and picks up in the second/third quarters, but nothing really happens in the fourth quarter,” the Chief Executive of the Authority, Dr. Kofi Mbiah, told the Business and Financial Times.

“In an election year, businessmen and investors are cautious because they adopt the wait-and-see attitude. There is also a tendency by importers to refrain from importing because of the turmoil that elections bring,” added Dr. Mbiah.

“It is important Ghana holds peaceful elections, but government must keep a watchful eye on public expenditure, inflation and the cedi to sustain growth of the economy.” As 2012 approached, the country’s total public debt shot up to GH˘23.4 billion at end November 2011, equivalent to 43.9 percent of GDP and up from 37.8 per cent of GDP at the end of 2010, according to the Bank of Ghana.

Meanwhile, the yearly inflation rate edged up to 8.58 percent in December from 8.55 percent in November 2011, and the cedi fell to an all-time low against the US dollar during trading this week. On the euro zone crisis, Dr. Mbiah said: “So far, we have not seen any impact yet on maritime trade, but we remain cautious because we may feel the impact later since our trade with European countries is increasing.”

According to him, the country’s maritime trade for the period January to September 2011 amounted to 11.5 million metric tonnes, up 23.22 percent over the same period in 2010. “The full maritime report is not ready, but we’re confident that 2011 will post a strong performance over the previous year,” he said.

Looking ahead, Dr. Mbiah said the Authority will engage some local banks this year to support importers and exporters with finance. “We will also partner Nigeria to hold a seminar to take Africa’s position on the Rotterdam rules on how trade business is done.”

He revealed that the Authority will implement the electronic cargo tracking note (e-CTN) by first quarter of this year to enhance the country’s competitiveness as a maritime trade-hub in West Africa.

The successful implementation of e-CTN will enable the Authority have real-time access to detailed pre-arrival information on all shipments, and thus improve upon its information dissemination services to shippers. The e-CTN is an official maritime document that contains information relating to cargo and its movements between ports.

“The e-CTN is vital because it will lead to the avoidance of undue delays and thereby eliminate added cost to shippers. “This will also help us in the transmission of maritime security data from ship to shore to curb and address various security concerns in the industry,” said Dr. Mbiah.

He stated that the information from the e-CTN will serve as backup data for customers and Destination Inspection Companies (DICs) in the country. The Union of African Shippers’ Councils (UASC) has pushed for adoption and implementation of the electronic cargo-tracking system to bring about harmony in cargo processing and clearance procedures across the region.

Consequently, a number of African countries have through collaboration with private sector entities with expertise in tracking devices implemented the e-CTN. Countries like Benin, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Angola, Senegal and Guinea, have all implemented the e-CTN in different modes that seek to safeguard the seaports and safety and monitoring of cargo.

In West Africa, Nigeria, Cameroun, Senegal and Benin are some of the countries in the sub-region that have implemented the e-CTN system which has had some positive impact in their maritime sectors.

Last year, the Authority inaugurated its fourth Shipper Complaints and Support Unit at the Aviance Cargo Village at Kotoka International Airport (KIA) in Accra to provide real-time assistance to shippers. The inauguration of the Unit at the Aviance Cargo Village brings to four the total number of Shippers Complaints and Support Units currently in operation.

The other three, which are located at Elubo, Aflao borders and Takoradi Port have been in operation for the past two years. Plans are advanced to open similar units at other entry points for importers and exporters.

“The unit will also allow for determination of the times of arrival and final destination of cargo, which goes to help in reducing the cost of international trade by improving the clearance time and avoiding surcharges such as demurrage and rent,” Dr. Mbiah explained.
Source: B&FT

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