The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) has called for the establishment of a Private Sector-led Shipper�s Association in the country.
According to GIFF, the association will regulate their activities and fight their challenges as well as have a fair deal in their operations.
At a press conference organised by Freight Forwarders and Clearing Agents in Takoradi, Mr. Kwame Asante-Asare the 2nd Vice President of GIFF alleged that the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) accuses some freight forwarders of imposing indiscriminate and unilateral charges on shippers.
�As much as the GIFF will not and does not condone any arbitrary charges by any of our members to the detriment of the shipper, we would also expect the Shippers Authority as a State Institution holding itself out to serve the interest of shippers not to use its privileged position to exploit the shipper,� he said.
On charges imposed by the Shippers Authority on shippers which GIFF claim has no basis in law, he cited US$2 per every freight tonne on all imports into the country and US$0.35 for all exports departing the country as well as GH�5 per every declaration passed by Customs House Agents.
He explained that beyond these charges, the Shipper Authority seeks to charge 25 euro per bill of lading as cargo tracking fee, a charge that per their own law has no basis.
�All these arbitrary charges are heaped on the shipper, and according to the parent Law of the GSA they have the right to impose these charges and ask how accountable have they been. �The GSA acquired a large warehouse at the Tema port area from these collections, and rented it out to a foreign multinational freight forwarding company that is charging in dollars per square metre per month.
This amount is so high that not many Ghanaian shippers can afford to take up space from this warehouse. What is the benefit, then, of such an entity to the shipper?� he asked. He pointed out that GSA indicates the purpose of the bill is to enable it execute its mandate presumptively to protect the interest of the shipper.
He added that it is in the interests of the Shipper that GSA has the responsibility to negotiate their charges: it becomes apparent that GSA does not understand clearly the economic dynamics of the shipping industry.
Mr. Asante-Asare noted that GSA has failed to ensure that shippers get a fair deal from shipping lines/ agents, the very anomaly they complain of today; and the evidence in support of this is not farfetched. �GSA�s mandate will be best served if they direct their minds and energies to the many teething problems affecting the shipper today, a key function that GIFF alleged has been abandoned all these years,� he added.
He noted that the proposed bill has no intention to regulate freight forwarders. Meanwhile, the draft bill requires freight forwarders to register with the authority, and further imposes sanctions on freight forwarders for failure to negotiate charges with the authority.
�One wonders whether there is anything less regulatory than this. What constitutes regulating an entity? Is there any less a regulation than a set of rules desiring a particular behavior from a person or entity through the use of sanctions?� GIFF asked.
He reassured the shipping community of GIFF�s unrelenting commitment to support the industry to grow. Speaking in an interview with the B&FT in reaction to the issues raised by GIFF, Mrs. Monica Josiah, the Western Regional Branch Manager of the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA), said the Authority is committed to the interest of the shipper and welcomes all contribution for the socio-economic development of the country.
She explained that the proposed regulation has been in existence for so long, and that the process in which all shippers in the 10 regions including stakeholders were invited for a meeting on these issues started five years ago.
She said before any charge is introduced, it is appropriate for all stakeholders involved to sit and negotiate -- there has to be a minimum standard that will engage all in the industry. �We are not seeking to take anybody�s role; Ghana is not ready for a Private Sector-Led Shippers Association; when the Port is efficient, it translates to every one of us,� she added.
She further explained that service charge is levied on cargoes and is collected on behalf of government for the development of the country.
According to National Redemption Council Decree (NRCD) 1974, section �254�, �It shall be the duty of the Council to provide facilities for mutual consultations between shippers, ship-owners and the Railway and Ports Authority on matters of interest to shipment.
�Without prejudice to subsection (1) of this section, the Council shall have power to represent the views of shippers in regard to the structure of freight rate, availability and adequacy of shipping space, frequency of sailing, port charges, port facilities and other matters relating to shippers.�
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