Shippers want cyber-security of ‘Paperless System’ tightened

October 13, 2017
Source: Kizito CUDJOE/thebftonline.com
Shippers want cyber-security of ‘Paperless System’ tightened

Some spare-parts importers and garage operators have called for tightening the security features of the new IT system driving the country’s paperless port regime.

With almost all transactions now expected to be done electronically to expedite the processes of clearing goods at the ports, some importers fear unscrupulous persons could take advantage of the exposed vulnerability of Internet systems in recent times to rob the new structure.  

This comes on the back of increases in global cyber-attacks, the latest being ransomware - a relatively new form of malware that scrambles a victim’s computer files and then demands a payment to unscramble them.

During the attack the software spreads rapidly, and in a matter of hours infects thousands of computers in dozens of countries around the world.

Some expert at the time said: “With millions of potentially vulnerable Windows computers out there, it could spread a lot further before IT security professionals get the infection under control”.

Per the new system in place at the ports, which came into effect on September 1, 2017, transactions by/between importers or their agents with port officials will be done electronically.

This now allows goods to be cleared from the ports in a matter of hours, all things being equal.

At a sensitisation programme on the ‘Paperless Clearance System’ - organised by the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) in collaboration with the GPHA, GRA-Customs among others at Suame Magazine in Kumasi - for spare-parts importers and garage operators, Mr. Kenneth Nkyi Benin, an importer, called for cyber security to be strengthened.

He said successful operation of the new system rests on a reliable Internet system with fast speed capabilities and strong cyber defence mechanisms.

Responding to these concerns, officials of the IT service providers of the paperless port system -- West Blue and GCNET -- assured importers of the resilience of the Internet security mechanisms put in place to run the ‘Paperless Clearance System’.

In relation to the Internet speed for the system, they indicated that they are always in touch with their Internet service providers to also improve their services and enable them to smoothly facilitate their customers’ business.

Additionally, a ‘Systems and Security Department’ has been set up to prevent access to the system’s data among others.

However, they also assured customers that other cyber security measures are put in place from time to time to keep the system very secure.

The importers also noted that contrary to the announcement that GRA-Customs checkpoints across the country would be removed to facilitate the easy transportation of goods to their destinations, this has not been done.

But the Head of Drawback, Export, and Origin of the Customs Division of the GRA clarified that all the checkpoints have been removed with the exception of four, which have been maintained as part of ECOWAS protocol to facilitate transit trade.

These checkpoints, he noted, includes Dabala, Mile 32, Ahenkro, and Osino. He further explained that the Ghana Police Service does not have the same instructions to reduce the barriers on the road.

The port officials, including members of the Freight Forwarders (ACHAG), as part of the programme took turns to explain the process involved in the new Sea Clearance and Single Window, and its advantages - particularly to importers.

The Kumasi Branch Manager of the Ghana Shippers Authority, Mr. Emmanuel Kwarteng, entreated the shipping public to be compliant with the new system to enjoy the benefits that come with it.

He also asked importers to always channel their challenges through the Ghana Shippers Authority as part of efforts in seeking answers for their worries.

In a related development, the port authorities also met with second-hand clothes importers and other importers at Ashtown on the second day of their sensitisation programme on the ‘Paperless System’.