A GNA feature by G.B. Osei-Antwi
Tema, April 21, GNA - The Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) populary called "Clearing Agents" by some importers and exporters, recently launched identification badges for their members operating at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) Tema Longroom, Takoradi Port, Aflao and Elubo borders.
Freight forwarding is the movement of goods across boundaries. It includes documentation, transportation, warehousing, customs clearance and of late distribution.
The launching of the ID badges for the about 200 GIFF members is expected to help the Customs, Excise and Preventive (CEPS), Port Security and the shipping companies to identify real freight forwarders operating at the Customs Longroom and the Ports where they assist importers and exporters to clear their goods.
In the seventies, a few individuals, who were involved in customs brokerage, came together to form the National Association of Customs House Agents (NACHA), which in 1990 metamorphosed into GIFF to reflect the global changes that was taking place rapidly in industry. The objectives of GIFF include instilling discipline in freight forwarding with a view to giving professional character to the practice. GIFF is a private institution, which works with CEPS at all the entry points in Ghana.
The Council of GIFF has over the years provided professional advice to the trading public. It adopted the Standard Trading Conditions (STC) last year to promote best practices among members and to protect both the forwarder and customer. The STC ensures that GIFF members take adequate insurance to cover their operations.
Initially clearing agents were not competent freight forwarders in the system, they were all customs house agents, until the Council introduced a training programme to bring them to international standards, thus facilitating their recognition by the International Federation of Freight Forwarders (FIATA)
After initial difficulties GIFF has started a two-year diploma course in Freight Forwarding at the Regional Maritime Academy (RMA). The first batch of students graduated in 2003.
Mr Kofi Brako, Immediate Past President of GIFF, told the Ghana News Agency that GIFF had designed the ID badges in such a way as to make forgery difficult.
Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, Tema GIFF District Chairman, explained that their main aim for re-instituting the ID barge system was to instil a sense of professional responsibility and discipline into the mind of the bearer and thus eliminate negative and unethical behaviour from the rank and file of GIFF membership.
The badges have been designed to meet the demands of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Code on security at port facilities that comes into effect on July 1, 2004.
The colour code adopted is yellow and red. The red badge allows access to all customs areas, while the yellow badge is to the Port and various CFS.
Mr Ahenkorah said the present ID system would be stringently enforced to enable GIFF realise its aim and had, therefore, mandated CEPS to select any private security company of its choice to man the gates at the Longroom at the expense of GIFF.
The GCNet Company also plans to do likewise to beef up security. This is done under the assumption that leaving CEPS Officers there alone might not be the best practice.
One thing that was noticed in the past was that the introduction of ID cards or badges resulted in a few skirmishes Freight Forwarders, with some of them breaking off to form off-shoot associations, such as Customs Brokers Association of Ghana (CBAG) and Freight Forwarders Association of Ghana (FFAG).
Mr Ahenkorah, therefore, pleaded with the members to embrace the concept. 21 April