The Ghana Union of Trader Associations (GUTA) and the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF) have expressed disquiet about the re-emergence of pre-shipment information arrangements being spearheaded by the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
The Cargo Tracking Note (CTN)—which is akin to the suspended Advanced Shipment Information (ASHI)—requests an importer to cover his/consignments with an official loading certificate (CTN Number), which confirms detailed information about cargo and its movement between ports.
Although the two institutions do not oppose the essence of the CTN intervention, they appear sceptical about its bureaucracy and cost implications.
If it is implemented, importers will have to file trade and shipping documents to the online portal of CTN Ghana for onward transmission to Customs. This is to guarantee a layer of assurance on the integrity of those documents for Customs purposes.
It will be a mandatory process for all maritime inbound cargo, but it will cost the shipper at least US$100 to get the CTN number to cover the consignment per one bill of lading on one container.
“We can’t allow government to surcharge importers anymore; and we are clear on this. If you consider the 20 percent CET, plus 17.5 percent tax, as well as the 0.5 percent ECOWAS and other levies, over 50 percent of the cost of imports is due to taxation,” President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obeng, told the B&FT.
Once the CTN becomes operational, goods that are not covered with a CTN number cannot be cleared from the ports.
Sanctions for the defaulting consignee include high penalties, possible protracted delays that may lead to demurrage fees, and in some cases, confiscation of goods.
According to the GUTA boss, government should have thought-through resorting to the ECOWAS Fund – which accumulates over US$50million annually from the 0.5 percent that is levied on all non-ECOWAS imports – to carry out such a programme if it wanted to mitigate the pressure on the trading community.
He said importers are already struggling to raise money for clearing their goods at the ports, which makes them pay huge sums in demurrages – adding, “We are not getting the needed protection from government”.
Another institution that is not in favour of the CTN as being advertised is the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, which argues that the whole process could be delivered at no extra cost to the importer – and for that matter, the Ghanaian consumer.
GIFF’s president, Kwabena Ofosu-Appiah, backed this stance with Article 12 of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), which allows and sets out the framework for cooperation under which Customs entities can exchange trade-related documents.
“We are not against the essence of the CTN, but if we are talking about Export Custom Declaration—which is the only document that delivers authenticity—then it should not be done on the website of a private firm,” he told the B&FT.
He questioned why such an important ustoms process should be carried out by a third party with add-on costs, especially when it could be integrated into the single window platform.
He added: “With the single window platform, Ghana Customs is spoiled for choice as the CTN could easily be integrated into either the West Blue or GCNet platforms free of cost.”