ICUMS frustration: Demurrage, congestion surcharge loom for freight forwarders

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Shipping lines, through their mother body – the Shipowners and Agents Association, have served clear notice to freight forwarders that they should be ready to bear the consequences of system delays being experienced due to use of the newly-introduced Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS).

In a letter addressed to the Ghana Shippers’ Authority, the shipping lines complained of system challenges hindering the upload of files onto the ICUMS. They have therefore resorted to manual channels, which happens to be a slow and laborious process.

Vice President of the Shipowners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG), Adam Imoru Ayarna, in an interview with the B&FT said: “If there are extra delays, if the vessels exceed the waiting days at the port and it becomes consistent for a week or two, the shipping lines will kick in congestion surcharges”.

The shipowners are therefore sending an advance warning that they will not be liable for the delay in clearing goods, as it is through no fault of theirs that new system is facing challenges; hence the letter to officially alert the Ghana Shippers’ Authority about the situation so that it communicates with freight forwarders to prevent any altercation at the various shipping lines.

The shippers want authorities to expedite action on solving the problem to allow business transactions at the port to run smoothly, as the more the delay, the more they lose.

“Shipping lines are losing; they are spending more time at work than necessary just to ensure that they carry out their services to satisfy the customer; but this is because the system is fraught with challenges. We are very worried that things are not moving as they should. We don’t want a situation where there will be congestion at the port; it will hit us very hard if that happens.

“Authorities know what is going on; they have to act quickly. Things must be done without complaints from shipping lines. GPHA, MPS, Customs and government officials have to put in some measures that ensure the protection of all stakeholder. If there are challenges, which is obvious, stakeholders need to talk and work around them,” Mr. Aryana said.

Other players in the sector – such as Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) and Customs Brokers Association-Ghana (CBAG) – fear the situation may lead to demurrage and congestion surcharges which will be passed on to importers.

Already, the presidents of GUTA and GIFF have complained severally over delays resulting from the ICUMS; saying it has created a lot of mess for players in the sector. They have appealed for government to intervene and ease the plight of freight forwarders.

Meanwhile, some officers from Ghana Link have been commissioned to visit shipping lines and help resolve the challenges of ICUMS.

ICUMS

ICUMS is a system built by Universal Pass (UNI-PASS), specially tailored to Ghana’s situation and provides an end-to-end supply chain solution that incorporates and consolidates existing systems currently in operation. Ghana Link Services Limited, which has a 10-year contract with the government of Ghana as a technical partner, contracted CUPIA of Korea to deploy its electronic Customs management system called Universal Pass (UNI-PASS), which is now known as the Integrated Customs Management System, ICUMS, for Ghana’s trade facilitation.

All transactions related to the import and export of goods at the various ports have since June 2, 2020 been conducted through ICUMs – which is supposed to a one-stop service for all Customs clearance procedures.

Prior to its implementation, there was simulation and piloting of the system at Tema Port – the last port to be hooked onto the system. With the exception of Tema Port, ICUMS has been operating at all entry points across Ghana for over a month now.

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