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Transit fraud to be blocked

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…Customs officers from destination countries to operate at Ghana ports

Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has announced government’s intentions to implement the First Port Duty Rule at Ghana’s ports in order to tackle smuggling arising from diverted transit goods supposedly meant for landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

He explained that under the First Port Duty Rule, customs officials of the landlocked nations will be stationed at Ghana’s ports, and the importer will be directed to the appropriate country desk to pay if indeed it is a transit good.
Dr Bawumia announced the corruption-fighting measure when he gave the keynote address at the 39th Council and Conference of the Ports Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) in Accra yesterday.
According to him, studies have shown that many of such goods are either unloaded and sold inside Ghana or sent through unapproved routes to the said destinations, thereby depriving both Ghana and the eventual destination of the necessary revenue.
Addressing the participants, which included directors of ports in 15 West and Central African countries, as well as representatives from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other key stakeholders, Vice-President Bawumia bemoaned the high level of corruption associated with the transit trade.
“So much smuggling is taking place through ‘transit’ trade to neighbouring countries such as Togo, Burkina, Niger and Mali. Not only does Ghana lose, the other countries also lose revenue when unapproved routes are used.”
For the most part, the goods never leave Ghana. Ghana will, therefore, be introducing the First Port Duty Rule hopefully before the end of the year. Under this rule, the customs authorities of our neighbouring countries will have presence at our port.
“So if an importer claims they are going to Mali or Burkina Faso, they just go to the Malian or Burkina desks and pay their duties,” Vice-President Bawumia explained.
The Vice-President underscored Ghana’s commitment to improving its trade relations with its neighbours, particularly those in the landlocked nations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, with a series of trade missions to these countries to strengthen ties and demonstrate its commitment to making Ghana’s corridors and the ports friendly for their patronage.
Vice-President Bawumia urged the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to effectively ensure the enforcement of the implementation of the axle load policy, which mandates all member countries to limit the loading capacity of a six-axle truck to 60 tonnes, in order to prevent the destruction of roads.
In his opening address, acting Director-General of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Mr Michael Lugujes said this year’s annual council meeting is the first meeting to add an exhibition component where various ports in association and allied companies can showcase their operations and services on offer to visitors.
Speaking on this year’s theme, ‘Best Practices in the Management of Port Lands and Estates’, he said GPHA has currently reclaimed about 110 hectares of land at Tema Port and about 61.9 hectares of land at the Takoradi Port.
He added that the GPHA has put in place critical policies decisions to pursue the agenda of increasing the capacity of the ports of Ghana and operational facility to facilitate international businesses in the sub-region.
On his part, Minister for Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah said the Government of Ghana, as a way to turn the fortunes of the nation’s economy, has embarked on programmes to improve infrastructure to enhance efficient delivery of services at the ports.
The Minister also revealed that the government, through the GPHA, is undertaking an expansion of the Tema and Takoradi harbours to meet the growing demand of handling cargo and the emerging services for oil and gas exploration in the maritime domain.
Mr Asiamah added that government, as way to encourage private sectors in the development of infrastructure, has encouraged private sectors to develop new ports to support the existing ports and also to meet the growing demand in the shipping and port trade.
He also advised the GPHA to adequately develop ports infrastructure and requisite equipment to meet the growing demands of the shipping industry.

Source: Naomi Quarshie ABAKWAN || The Finder, Accra

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