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22.02.2007 General News

Regulate The Activities Of Ship Owners

The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders has called on the government to regulate the activities of ship owners and agents in the country to prevent them from charging illegal container fees.

They also want the government to extend the free demurrage period from seven days to 14 days.

Addressing a news conference in Tema, the District Chairman of the institute, Mr Wilberforce Addae, said that the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG) now charged between $100 and $150 as container fee.

He said though the Ministry of Roads Transport issued a directive in 2002 that the container administrative fee was suspended, ship owners had instead increased the fee.

Mr Addae said the GIFF had identified nine individual charges which the ship owners had classified as container fee though it had no legal backing.

The duplicated fees are container administrative, evacuation and container maintenance fees.

The others are first release charge, indemnity release, cleaning cost, amendment fee, bill of laden and reefer fee.

Mr Addea ponited out that these fees, which he described as arbitrary and illegal, would continue to be transferred to the importer and eventually increase the cost of doing business in the country.

Giving the background, Mr Addae said the break down of facilities and infrastructure at the Tema port in 1987 led to loading and unloading rates, high ship turn-around time, high freight and demurrage charges, delays in berthing of ships and very low ship productivity rates.

He said these influenced the charging of fees to offset difficulties faced by shippers in delivering containers with their own equipment, to importers and shippers, at the port.

He stated that the shipping agents were granted $10 to offset the cost involved but noted that the equipment situation had been rectified and therefore the levy was no more necessary.

Mr Addae said a critical examination of freight forwarding at the port of Tema revealed that a large number of the shipping lines operating in Ghana had their own freight forwarding units which competed aggressively and unfairly with private forwarders who were not affiliated to shipping lines.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Harbour Employees has held a press conference in Tema to appeal to the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GPHA) to maintain the indigenous stevedoring companies at the port as a means of stabilising jobs for members of the union.

The union said that liquidation of the stevedoring companies would render 2000 workers jobless.

The general secretary, Mr James Jimah Jebuni who addressed the press conference, condemned the contracting of all stevedoring duties to a foreign company, Meridian Port Services, which had 70 per cent allocated to it.

Story by Rose Hayford Darko