Importers and exporters in the country paid US$75million in demurrages to shipping lines, and an additional GH¢48million in rent charges to various terminal operators at the ports for want of efficient systems that could have enabled them to empty their containers and move their consignments within the allowable seven cost-free days.
If we are to follow recent trends in the payment of demurrages and rent at the ports, the amount paid last year was a significant reduction—albeit totally avoidable.
Demurrage is money that is paid to shipping lines when an importer grounds the container stocking his/her consignment at the port after the free seven-day period. Within that same period, the consignee will also have to pay rent to the terminal where the container is landed.
For an economy like ours that is in dire need of certain basic infrastructure, the thought of having importers and exporters part with such huge sums of monies is quite alarming.
Because demurrage is money that is paid to shipping lines – who are local representatives of foreign vessels which call at the country’s seaports – these monies are shipped off our shores.
Even more worrying is the fact that shippers cannot however begrudge the shipping lines, for the simple reason that demurrage is an avoidable cost.
This means if the primary players in the goods clearance chain – particularly the shippers and Customs valuation services providers such as GCNet and Westblue – get their acts together, then shipping lines would have no business charging demurrage.
This is why the B&FT recognises the role being played by the Ghana Shippers Authority in finding a collective and lasting solution to the situation.
Through its ‘How to avoid demurrage’ campaign, the authority has been engaging various business associations engaged in imports and exports on the need to ensure that they act to clear their goods at the ports on time so as to avoid paying huge sums in rents and demurrages.
By this campaign, the GSA is living up to its mandate of protecting and promoting the interests of shippers in the country.
But we believe that fighting demurrage and rent payments at the ports requires a concerted effort, and we encourage all stakeholders in the shipping value chain to contribute their quota.
We also call on government to fix inefficiencies in the system which contribute to the problem.