Trade associations operating at the Tema Port have called on the government to immediately halt the implementation of new freight charges since they have no legal basis to do so.
The associations have, consequently, urged their members and the general public to disregard the 100 per cent increase in additional port fees announced by the Shipping Lines.
The shipping lines, apart from announcing the implementation of new tariffs of $132 for twenty equivalent unit (TEU) and $264 for forty TEU from $77 and $154, have also announced their intention to commence the implementation of container transfer fees of $50 as an inland additional import service charge scheduled to be implemented from March 15, this year.
These charges, which were expected to take effect yesterday, according to the shipping lines, were in response to a proposed limited revision of port tariffs by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
However, the group called on the Ghana Shippers Authority to impress on the shipping lines to reverse the charges. “We are entreating all exporters, importers, freight forwarders and all our partners within the logistics supply chain to disregard the notices of any increases commencing March 1, 2021,” the group said at a press conference.
The group is made up of the Concerned Freight Forwarders and Traders, the Ghana Union Traders Associations (GUTA), the Food and Beverage Association of Ghana (FABAG), the Importers and Exporters Association, and the Tema Chapter of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF).
Breach of rules
The Chairman of the Concerned Freight Forwarders and Traders, Mr Oheneba Kwasi Afawuah, who addressed the conference, wondered why the shipping lines were in a hurry to implement the tariffs when they had not filed the charges for negotiations with the Ghana Shippers Authority as required under the authority’s regulations 2012, L.I. 2190.
“The regulation states that “the Authority shall negotiate on behalf of shippers with associations of shipping service providers, charges of ship owners, shipping lines and agents, port charges, terminal and shore handling charges, charges of freight consolidators as well as charges for receipt and delivery operations, among others,” Mr Afawuah said.
He also pointed out that the regulations required the shipping lines as service providers to notify the Shippers Authority three months before the beginning of each calendar year of the level and structure of the charges that the shipping service provider intended to administer.
The above provisions, Mr Afawuah stated, had not been fulfilled, as such, the move by the shipping lines was illegal and an affront to the laid down procedures.
The Communication Director of GUTA, Mr Joseph Paddy, also noted that the charges were not in the best interest of the trading public, especially, when shipping charges had in the past seen astronomical increases.
“As a coalition, we want to reiterate earlier suggestions on the charges to be halted since no consultations were done with either the trade associations, the Ministry of Transport or the Shippers Authority, and it is unacceptable for the shipping lines to arbitrary impose tariffs on the local authorities and we want to send a strong message that we will not allow the charges to take off,” Mr Paddy said.
The Vice-President of the Ship Owners and Agents Association (SOAAG), Mr Adam Imoru Ayarna, when contacted, on the other hand, maintained that the charges were freight-related and not local charges and, therefore, had no bearing on the Shippers Authority to negotiate or regulate.
“In any case, what the associations must understand is that the shipping lines are only agents of the principals and collect these charges on their behalf based on a commercial decision”, Mr Ayarna said.
Attempts to get responses from the Ghana Shippers Authority were unsuccessful.
However, the Daily Graphic sighted a letter the authority has written to the shipping lines to withdraw the charges.
“While it is conventional for shipping lines the world over to institute surcharge/port additional for any unforeseen occurrences that are likely to affect a voyage impact, their ability to maintain the quality of service to the trade, these costs are charged as part of freight and not recoverable as separate charges at the destination,” the letter stated.