Business News of Tuesday, 13 January 2015
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) — operator of the country’s two seaports — has thrown its weight behind government’s plan to introduce the single window system of clearing goods at the ports: as it will ensure shorter dwelling time of cargo, do away with the current bureaucratic processes, and hugely reduce the cost of doing business.
GPHA’s Marketing and Corporate Affairs Manager, Paul Ansah-Asare, told the B&FT that introducing the system is long overdue considering the recent surge in trade, the pile-up of containerised and reefer goods at the various terminals, and continual bureaucracies in processing trade documents.
“The single window system will provide the platform for an integrated clearance process that will minimise the human factor as much as possible and, to a large extent help to reduce the processing time for trade documents.
“This will obviously be an improvement over the current situation where part of the cargo clearance process is automated while the other part is carried out manually.
“Implementation is long overdue; especially considering the surge in cargo throughput to the country’s ports and the long issue of congestion and bureaucracies in the clearance process. Such a system will minimise the challenges that militate against smooth and timely clearance of goods at the ports,” he told the B&FT.
The comment comes on the back of a hint from the Trade and Industry Minister, Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, that government will soon create a fast clearing system as part of plans to provide a conducive business environment that will alleviate the frustrations that the shipping public — importers and exporters — face in their dealings at the ports.
The single-window system is a trade facilitation idea that enables international — cross-border — traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location and/or single entity.
Such documents are typically Customs declarations, applications for import/export permits, and other supporting documents such as certificates of origin and trading invoices.
The main value proposition for having a single-window clearance system is an increase in efficiency through time and cost savings for traders in their dealings with government authorities when obtaining the relevant clearance and permit(s) for the movement of their cargoes.
Mr. Ansah-Asare said the single window system, when rolled-out, will enable the port authorities to move cargo out of the ports quicker.
He said in order to reap the desired benefits from the system — including shorter dwelling time for cargo, the platform should allow for one-stop payment from shippers as is done in other port countries like Cameroon, and also integrate all the key players involved in the clearance process at the ports.
“There are various ways that the single window system is deployed in order to reap the benefits. In some cases it is an independent system operated by a special purpose company, like it is done in Cameroon.
“If we can make the best out of this system, then it should integrate all the key players involved in the goods clearance process at the ports. It should also be a system that will ensure one-stop payment, where the invoices are collated onto the single window system for onward distribution to the various agencies.
“When that is done, people won’t find it necessary to enter the port except to assist with cargo inspection with the help of the agent, in some peculiar cases.”
Mr. Ansah-Asare said the impact of the single window system will be felt in the economy: “As the cargo stays at the port the shipping line is charging demurrage, the port is taking its rent, and the state of the cargo — if consumables — will be questioned, and all these affect the pricing of imported goods on the market.
“For raw materials that have been imported for industrial use, the business will be held back as long as the items remain at the ports. This system will therefore help businesses to take stock of their imported items in a timely manner.”