The Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori-Asiamah, has directed the Ghana Shippers’ Authority to suspend demurrage and rent charges on all cargo that have remained uncleared at the Ghana’s ports since the announcement of the partial lockdown in part of the country.
Mr Ofori-Asiamah, said the decision is to ensure that certain actions are not taken to undermine the efforts of government’s effort to contain. the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic on the basis of going to the port to clear goods in order to prevent accumulation of costs.
The Minister’s directive, which is contained in a letter addressed to the Ghana Shippers Authority, is in response to appeals made to the government in respective of the issue.
Disagreement over GPHA directive
Several weeks ago, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) together with the Shippers Authority issued a directive asking importers and all players within the shipping industry to be present at the ports to clear their goods or pay rent charges on those goods stored at the port warehouse.
This decision, apparently, did not go down well with players inn the industry. They subsequently called on the government to appeal to the GPHA and shipping lines to give unconditional waivers on demurrage and rent charges during the lockdown period.
In a statement released to the press last week, the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) argued that the call on them to come clear their goods or face paying demurrage and rent charges did not make sense because their businesses are shut down due to the lockdown.
“It is very sad that while most of our members cannot move out freely because they are all adhering to the restrictions announced by government, the shipping lines are asking that since they are still working, our members whose goods have arrived at the ports should clear them or pay demurrage if the containers continue to remain at the ports during this lockdown period”, the GUTA statement read.
But in the letter directed to the Ghana Shippers Authority, the Minister said “the effect of these developments and the far-reaching consequences on the shipping public, may altogether defeat the fight against the COVID-19”.
He observed that following government’s announcement that all cargoes could move in and out of the country despite the partial lockdown “a number of unintended consequences have resulted from the current state of affairs”.
He adds that “for instance, while some peculiar circumstances have prevented some shippers from clearing their cargo from the ports, others have also encountered some challenges in the process.”
GUTA happy with counter directive
To show their gratitude for the suspension of the demurrage and rent charges, GUTA issued another statement on 19th April, 2020 to commend the government, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Trade and Industry for heeding to their demand.
“It is gratifying that the Minister for Transport has moved swiftly directing the Ghana Shippers Authority to communicate to all relevant stakeholders to suspend all charges i.e. demaurage and rent charges on all cargo that are uncleared during the lock-down period. This will ensure that everyone complies with government directives during this lock-down period,” GUTA said.
This, they added, shows that government is listening to the concerns of the business community and committed to working with the private sector even in these difficult moments.
“It is our hope that all the relevant stakeholders, the Shipping lines and GPHA, will in good faith comply with this directives for sanity to prevail at our various port of entries’, the added.