Expected transformation of Ghana’s Ports
Expected transformation of Ghana’s Ports

Dr. Bawumia’s New Initiatives include; Removal of Custom Barriers, Mandatory Joint Inspections, paperless Transaction, all set to begin on September 1

Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, during a recent inspection of the ongoing expansion and rebranding of the US$1.5 billion Tema Port works said after broad consultations with relevant stakeholders, a number of measures are set to be introduced at the country’s ports to improve efficiency and more user-friendly.

Dr. Bawumia indicated that operations at the ports have not lived up to international standards, and that government has lined up some measures that will take effect from September 1, 2017.

The measures include the removal of customs barriers within Ghana, mandatory joint inspections and a paperless port.

He noted that government’s goal within the next six months is to have a robust risk engine which will grant customs clearance in a maximum of 4 hours. Dubai customs is able to grant customs clearance in 1 and ½ seconds and so Ghana can definitely aim for 4 hours instead of the current system of days and weeks.

The Vice President announced that a National Risk Clearance System will be introduced to include Pre-Clearance, Clearance and Post Clearance Processes, fed by data from all systems. Compliant importers will get customs clearance in real time whiles non-compliant importers will go through scanning and physical inspection. All activities of importers will be fed into the system to build risk profiles for importers.

On the removal of internal customs barriers

Dr. Bawumia noted that these barriers will be redundant in the long term with the introduction of the First Port Rule in Ghana. Duties will be paid on goods destined for re-export and with the new automated gate opening system at the port which will be linked to the risk engine. No vehicle will be able to leave the port without paying their duty. In the short term, they will be replaced with occasional patrols.

On Mandatory Joint Inspections

VEEP made an assurance that from September this year, government is not going to physically open and inspect all containers. Government is introducing a risk regime which will assign risk levels to importers based on their level of compliance. When the need arises for inspections, the agencies needed for the inspections will be informed about the inspection time and place for joint inspections and they will have to sign in on an electronic device at the inspection shed to confirm their participation.

Ongoing paperless at the port

He added that with the help and cooperation of all stakeholders at the port, government has mapped out a process flow which will take effect from September 1, 2017. Agencies and stakeholders presented paperless process flows which were merged into a process flow that will enable compliant importers to sit in their offices or homes and get customs clearance. Agencies or service providers who are not ready to go paperless by September 1 will not be allocated any cargo.

Implementation of risk clearance system at pre-arrival stage:

This will make it possible for compliant importers to sit in the comfort of their offices and get customs clearance. The introduction of first port rule in Ghana will also provide the avenue for the duty of goods destined for countries like Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to be paid here in Ghana. This should provide a check on the dumping of goods destined for our neighbouring countries in Ghana.

In the case of automation, Dr. Bawumia emphasised that terminals which are not ready for automation by September 1, will be left behind and people who do not comply will be sanctioned. Every activity by importers will be fed into the risk engine as government builds risk profiles for importers and exporters.

He intimated that the long room will be scrapped adding that Customs Technical Services Bureau and Customs Compliance will be merged at the pre-arrival stage. With the introduction of a signature, the CCVR declaration will be enhanced with a declaration statement and electronic signature by the declarant. A false declaration will come with sanctions.

According to the VEEP, in the case of bonded warehouses, a system will be introduced to link the number of warehousing days to an importer’s bond or confirmed LC. Once the warehousing days expire, the system will automatically call on the confirmed LC or bond based on how much duty is owed government. Government will not accept the practice of allowing goods to overstay in bonded warehouses.

Inspection and Testing

Dr. Bawumia stressed that the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) will be responsible for all inspection and testing activities at the ports except for products regulated by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), which include food, drugs (medicines), cosmetics, household chemical substances, medical devices and tobacco and tobacco products where the FDA will undertake inspection and testing and share data with the appropriate agencies.

He posited that joint inspection by regulatory agencies will be managed as part of the National Risk Management System supported by an HS Code Management System and Task Manager for coordination and confirmation of the inspection officer’s attendance.

By Abubakari Seidu Ajarfor