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05.04.2006 Business & Finance

High freight cost affects Ghana's competitiveness - Mbiah

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Accra, April 05, GNA - Mr Kofi Mbiah, Executive Director of the Ghana Shippers Council, on Wednesday said the high freight cost as a proportion to import value for Ghana was gravely affecting her competitiveness with regards to exports.

He said the freight factor of around 11 per cent to 15 per cent was too high and that efforts ought to be made to reduce that factor to about six per cent.

Mr Mbiah was speaking at the opening of the Maritime Law and International Trade Conference organised by the Shippers Council and the Ministry of Harbours and Railways.

It was to educate major stakeholders, especially members of the legal profession in the practice of Maritime Law and to throw light on the value of the import and export trade to the growth and competitiveness of the national economy.

Mr Mbiah said cargo clearance procedures still remained cumbersome in addition to the proliferation of unwarranted charges at the ports which were detrimental to the interests of importers and exporters. He noted that the level of technological penetration in the industry remained low despite the deployment of the GCNet System since some agencies still remained outside that framework.

Mr Mbiah said Africa did not benefit in the global gains of transport efficiency though world sea borne trade continued on the ascendancy with 6.8 billion tons in 2004 and 7.03 billion tons in 2005. "While the freight factor for developed economies stood at 3.9 per cent that of the developing economies was 9.1 per cent with an African freight factor of 11.9 per cent.

Mr Mbiah said Ghana's maritime trade throughput increased from 10.4 million tons in 2004 to approximately 13.9 million tons in 2005 representing an increase of 33.6 per cent.

He said despite the setbacks, the Council chalked some successes in the area of providing warehousing facilities and transport logistics among other things.

He said there was the need to streamline the operations of freight forwarders in the industry to consolidate their efforts and to acquire the requisite technologies to enable them to provide integrated logistic services.

Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, Minister of Harbours and Railways said the Government had taken steps to improve on the infrastructure for international trade activities adding that Ghana and AP Moller Terminals had signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop logistics platform in Takoradi.

He said the Ministry would continue to collaborate with the various agencies to create the requisite environment for the trade and transport sectors.

Dr Joseph Abbey, Executive Director of the Centre for Policy Analysis, who chaired the function, said the subject of Maritime Law was not too familiar with stakeholders in the industry adding that Ghana could only benefit from the complex international trade if stakeholders were kept abreast with the dynamics.

He said the conference should be an annual event to sensitise stakeholders in the business adding that the recommendations made would be fine-tuned to enable government take the required actions to improve on the sector.

The conference also saw the launch of the 'The Admiral', a Maritime Book, a compilation of papers presented at the Maritime Seminar for Judges held recently.

Fifteen copies of the book were auctioned for about 40 million cedis.