There is total chaos at the Takoradi Port since April 1, when Ghana Link services started to implement its supposedly superior UNIPASS/Integrated Customs Management Systems (ICUMS), with freight forwarders left frustrated and in utter shock and disappointment.
The frustrated Freight forwarders are mulling over failure of the UNIPASS system to clear goods electronically and seamlessly at Takoradi Port.
Currently, valuation is being done manually at Takoradi Port, resulting in delays when clearing goods.
The supposedly superior UNIPASS/ICUM system – vehemently defended by senior government officials – is unable to deliver the end to end package as envisaged as Freight forwarders have been asked to go back to manual means of clearing goods.
Sources among the Freight forwarders at Takoradi say, unlike the GCNet/West Blue system wherein documents are electronically available for direct access anytime, any day in the end to end chain, that is not so with the new UNIPASS/ICUMS systems.
While importers are not able to access the Tax Identification Numbers of their companies and other registration details in the new system, the system-handlers themselves are having challenges with manifest declarations, handling and processing.
The paper has it that only two vessels have so far docked at Takoradi Port since closure of the country’s borders.
However, the UNIPASS/ICUM system has not been able to release even 20 percent of about 300 containers on the first vessel that docked at the port two weeks ago, not to talk of the second vessel which docked last week.
Meanwhile, some of the imports in the containers are perishables and the delay in clearing them has created some discomfort and unease among importers and freight forwarders.
Under normal times, there would have been over 20,000 containers to be cleared; and judging by the current situation, hell would have broken loose if such a volume of containers had arrived for Ghana Link/UNIPASS to clear
Some importers who spoke with this paper in strict anonymity said they have been asked to print out previously scanned documents from the GCNet/West Blue system (to serve as a guide for valuation which ICUMS is unable to do) and manually attach them to current documents for submission.
They said the situation is further compounded by the fact that UCR and IDF details are captured from the GCNet/West Blue system to use in the ICUMS – adding that unlike in the GCNet/West Blue Systems where there is access to Container Movement Reports (CMR) and Delivery Orders (DO) in electronic format, the new UNIPASS/ICUMS does not demonstrate such functionality…raising questions about the preparedness and supposed superiority and robustness of the ICUMS.
This means that other agencies which rely on electronic data for reporting purposes are deficient, and this totally defeats the vice president’s efforts to achieve a completely paperless port.
It also means that in this lockdown when agents are to work from home, they must necessarily move to site in-person to ensure their consignments are cleared.
The danger is that the manual process is going to cause revenue loss to the state, as agents can connive with corrupt Custom officers to clear goods with any arbitrary value.
Many importers believe the nation has returned to past practices, whereby manual valuation allowed for customs officials to influence payments and enrich themselves at the nation’s expense.
They therefore called on President Akufo-Addo to take immediate action to halt the UNIPASS/ICUMS operations and launch an investigation into their supposedly superior system.