Businesses gang up against Shippers’ Authority; threaten to close shops

Business News of Saturday, 28 February 2015

Source: B&FT

Dr Kofi Mbiah IMO

Private sector business groups in the country have served notice to shut their business operations to the public next week Wednesday in a bid to force the Ghana Shippers Authority to abandon a planned implementation of an Advance Shipment Information System into the import trade regime on Sunday.

Already, consultative sessions with the traders and importers on the Advance Shipment Information System, which has been termed ASHI, have ended in disagreements and confrontations, leading to traders, importers and other business groups threatening to disrupt the business environment, a couple of days before the country celebrates 58 years of independence.

“By the powers conferred on me by the supreme head of traders and businesses, I declare that no business or shop operates on the 4th of March, 2015 to press home our concerns until we have a definite solution to our concerns,” said the National Organizer of the Ghana Union Traders Association, Joseph Obeng.

The declaration was met with cheers and drumming from the other trade organizations present at a press conference on Wednesday to vent their frustrations at trade regulators, including the Ghana Pharmaceutical Association, Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ghana Automobile Dealers Association, Exporters and Importers Association, Food and Beverages Association, and the Customs Brokers Association of Ghana.

The Freight Forwarders Association also added: “We the Freight Forwarders are solidly behind this action. This advance system is just to siphon money from us. Because they know we will object to its implementation, we were the last people they consulted and that was on the 13th of February and they asked us to help them to implement it on the 1st of March, 2015. Right there we objected.

But if they go ahead and implement ASHI, we the freight forwarders will go on a sit down strike for two days and if they persist, we will extend it to one week and it will go on as long as the system remains in place. So we should not allow the Ghana Shippers Authority to implement this advance information system.”

Currently, the country’s trading regime is polarized as the traders and importers are already battling other state agencies such as the Ghana Standards Authority over the introduction of the Ghana Conformity Assessment Programme (G-CAP).

The private sector business groups, led by the unionized organistion of traders, GUTA, are increasingly getting negative about the country’s trading environment and say the implementation of the ASHI will further dampen the business outlook.

But the Ghana Shippers Authority insists ASHI – an electronic platform by which pre-arrival cargo information is received in advance for planning and commencement of the pre-clearance process- would cut down on the cost and time of clearing cargo and goods at the ports by way of reducing the incidence of payments of high rent and demurrage charges.

According to the Ghana Shippers Authority, studies it conducted in 2013 indicated that shippers paid demurrage of about US$75 million and rent of about Gh¢30 million, resulting in delays in the clearing of goods at the ports.

The Authority now expects ASHI to be a prerequisite for clearing of goods at the ports and wants clearing agents and freight forwarders to comply with provisions in the System in order to save cost and speed up clearing at the ports.

But the private sector business groups contend ASHI will only compound the difficulties and cost they incur in trading and clearing goods at the ports as they are currently burdened with high taxes and increased utility charges.

“Effective 1st of March, 2015, we are told again that the ASHI and a tax stamp will be introduced. All these are coming with additional cost to doing business in the country.

“So, we are gathered here to state unequivocally that we are tired of being over burdened with numerous taxes and levies. Our businesses are dying slowly. Indeed, we are angry! In the past years many businesses have painfully laid off workers as a result of the situation. We don’t want to continue on this path, especially in times like this.

“We will therefore not be able to accept any additional bureaucracy and layer of cost such as ASHI, G-CAP and any other,” they said.

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