One week has gone past since the commencement of the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUM) by the Ghana Revenue Authority.
However, Freight Forwarders and Clearing Agents are still facing challenges in using the new system to clear their goods.
Players in the industry are reeling the seeming failure of the transition from the old GCNet system to the ICUM system that is being rolled out.
Speaking on the ‘Business Focus’ show on TV3 on Monday, June 8, 2020, the President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Mr Eddie Akrong, described the ICUM system, which is being rolled out by UNIPASS, as a mess.
He claims that clearing processes at the ports have reverted to the manual system, which existed some 20 years ago. Where shipping lines, freight forwarders and clearing agents, are now being asked to provide photocopies of documents previously used to clear goods.
He adds that challenges with the new system are causing delays, and creating additional cost relative to rent and demurrage charges.
This, he said, is badly affecting their business as the freight forwarders will have to bear the additional charges brought upon them by the failure of the ICUM system.
The Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) on June 1, 2020 shut down the Ghana Community Network (GCNet) clearing system to pave way for the commencement of the new ICUM system, also referred as UNIPASS.
This came after piloting of the system at some ports including the Takoradi and the Tema Ports and the subsequent training of stakeholders.
However, since Monday, June 1, the freight forwarders have been struggling to clear their goods at the ports using the new system.
ICUM has no system
For his part, Kwesi Serebour Boateng, a major player in Ghana’s port operations, said the transition from GCNet to UNIPASS is the worst he has seen ever since he started doing business at the port.
He said the old system, which was manned by GCNet and Westblue, worked efficiently and that even where there are challenges they were resolved quickly.
“When a vessel comes and the manifest is sent, the system is supposed to match it, but ICUMs is doing this manually, so where is the system there? The system is that when you send the manifest, it must match and cancel each other, but now a human being must do it so there is no system called ICUMS. It is just somebody’s imagination at the port”, he said.
The Public Relations Manager of the Ghana Link, the Technical partners for ICUM, Norvan Acquah Hayford, says he appreciates the frustrations of the freight forwarders with the new system and that they are working to ensure that all the challenges were resolved quickly.
He further debunked Mr Boateng’s assertion that ICUM does not have a system.
“There is always a challenge with every new system, but how you are able to surmount these challenges is what is important”, he said.
He added that it will be too early for anyone to describe the UNIPASS system as a failure due to the challenges that people are facing with it. Adding that one week is not enough to assess its effectiveness and efficiency.
By Salifu B.B. Moro