Accra, May 14, GNA- The Chief Justice, Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, on Friday said International Maritime Laws and Conventions was an area that required national attention and compliance if Ghana should be part of the global community. He noted that the tremendous increase in complex shipping cases required commensurate specialization and competence in justice delivery.
Mr Acquah was opening a two-day seminar on Maritime Law in Accra for judges of the Superior Courts of Ghana. About 100 judges from all the 10 regions, and representatives of ship-owners, freight forwarders, port authority, importers and exporters, legal practitioners and students of Law and Maritime Studies, shipboard officers, marine surveyors and governmental bodies are attending the seminar.
The seminar would create awareness for the bench and the bar in the areas of Maritime Law for better appreciation of the Law and strengthen the links between maritime commercial interests and the judiciary. It is being organised by the Ghana Shippers Council (GSC), under the auspices of the Ministry of Ports, Harbours and Railways, and the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General's Department.
The theme was: Strengthening the Judiciary as a Bulwark for the Facilitation of International Trade and Transport" Mr Justice Acquah said lawyers should not use their chamber's addresses as that for parties to an action. "This rule is going to be applicable to actions in all courts of the country". The measure, along with others, is to avoid delays in the adjudication of cases at the newly created Commercial Courts of the High Court
Mr Justice Acquah said the new automated Commercial Courts were set up to avoid delays and it was compulsory to apply the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system at the pre-trial stage before hearing starts. He said six judges for the Commercial Courts, currently undergoing training had already been to Tanzania and Uganda, and would proceed to Denmark Commercial and Maritime Court, next month and, later to London. He appealed to the Shippers Council to consider sponsoring six judges for another six-week course in Maritime Law and practice in Italy, the next legal vacation.
Paapa Owusu Ankoma, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, said his outfit would collaborate with the Ministry of Ports and Harbours to ensure early ratification and accession of relevant international conventions of International Maritime Organisation of which Ghana is a member. He said the two institutions would also take the necessary steps to incorporate the conventions into Ghana's domestic law, and asked practitioners in the maritime industry to draw Government's attention to some of the conventions.
Paapa Ankoma said the vision of the Government was to make Ghana a maritime hub for West and Central Africa adding that Ghana ought to develop a strong legal framework. Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, whose speech was delivered by Mr Ben Owusu Mensah, Chief Director of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, said maritime traffic in Ghana rose from 8.6 million metric tonnes in 2002 to about 9.5 million in 2003. He announced that efforts were under way to establish the Maritime Authority this year and to get it to discharge its function under the Ghana Maritime Act, Act 630 of 2002.
Mr Kofi Mbeah, Chief Executive Officer of the Shippers Council said the citizenry and foreigners alike did not seek redress from the law courts for lack of precision and confidence. He said others also "compromised readily and unduly their rights due to miscarriage of justice meted out by a judge who was not fully apprised of Maritime Law".
Mr Mbeah said that placed the onerous duty on judges to "go on a voyage of discovery in order to appreciate the full ramifications of their judgements." Alhaji Asuma Banda, Chairman of Ghana Antrak Group of Companies, who chaired the opening session, stated that it was important for shippers and freight forwarders to be convinced that there was a legal system to which claims for loss or damage to cargo, and other disputes arising out of the international transportation of cargo might be submitted.
The Nigerian Shippers Council, in a good will message reaffirmed its bonds with the GSC, and said it would continue to hold Ghana in high esteem in building and sustaining international best practices in shipping in West and Central Africa.