Clearing goods at ports made easy

Tema Port
Tema Port

In recent past, Ghana’s port operations have not lived up to international standards in terms of goods clearing.

The lack of professionalism and unnecessary delays at the port one goes through before clearing imported goods have frustrated and put a lot of people out of business.
However, exporters and importers who rely on GCNET for their port transactions will be engaged on a single electronic platform starting from Monday, 7th August, 2017.

Product Development Manager at GCNET, Carl Sackey, revealed this when the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism paid a courtesy call on the company in Accra last week.

This is a pilot program to test the systems for the implementation of the National Paperless operations which is scheduled to begin September 1, 2017.

This will mean that Clearing of goods at the country’s ports would be done within four hours beginning September 1 as government phases out procedures that cause undue delay.

Double inspections, processing of papers and other activities that impede the smooth running of the port should be a thing of the past when the paperless operations kick in.

The operator of the automation systems, GCNet confirmed that come August 7, the new system begins as it gets piloted at the port.

Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Trade, Industry and Tourism, Marfo Nana Amaniampong expressed satisfaction with the work done so far by GCNET on the new system.

GCNet is expected to invest about $6million into the infrastructural upgrade as well as other related programs for the year.

On the 17thof May this year, Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia announced 3 measures to take effect from the 1st of September.These were: The removal of customs barriers within the country; Mandatory Joint Inspections; and a paperless port.

After broad consultations with relevant stakeholders a number of measures are set to be introduced at Ghana’s ports to improve efficiency and make them more user-friendly.

On the removal of internal customs barriers: 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: From the 1st of September, this year, we are not going to physically open and inspect all containers. We are introducing a risk engine 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.

On-going paperless at the port: With the help and cooperation of all the stakeholders at the port, we have mapped out a process flow which will take effect from the 1st of September 2017. Agencies and stakeholders presented paperless process flows which we merged into a process flow that will enable compliant importers to sit in the comfort of their offices or homes and get customs clearance.

Our 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.

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 enable us build risk profiles for importers.

Agencies or service providers who are not ready to go paperless by September 1st 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.

Introduction of First Port Rule in Ghana: This provides 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.

Automation: Terminals which are not ready for automation by 1st September 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 we build risk profiles for importers and exporters.

Scrapping of Long Room: Customs Technical Services Bureau and Customs Compliance will be merged at the pre-arrival stage.

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.

Bonded Warehouses: Introduction of a system which will 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. We will not accept the practice of allowing goods to overstay in bonded warehouses.

Inspection and Testing: The Ghana Standards Authority will be responsible for all inspection and testing activities at the ports except for products regulated by the Food and Drugs Authority, 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.

Joint Inspection: 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.

Sanctions: Strict sanctions will be imposed on declarants presenting falsified documents. There will be a 2-strike rule of first a punitive fine and second a complete ban.

-Adnan Adams Mohammed

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