Close to GH¢2bn lost to diversion of imports Transit cargo to be containerised Transporters given 6-month ultimatum

The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) fell short of its 2018 revenue target by more than GH¢2billion, and almost 70 percent of that loss is attributed to the transit trade sector according to the Commissioner of Customs, Isaac Crentsil.

He said unfair practices, including the diversion of goods and the non-declaration of goods that are originally meant for transit but eventually find their way onto the domestic market, accounted for that loss.

To check such practices and also block revenue seepages in that aspect of the shipping business, the GRA is planning to enforce a directive that will require all transit goods to be containerised.

Under the new system, transporters which cart goods to the landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will have to build a container on their trucks to be able to engage in that business.

“We are moving to containerisation for transit cargo because we have realised that when they use the normal tarpaulin, they just cut it and seal it on the way.

Containerising transit cargo will ensure that goods are secured while on the move to the final transit destination,” Isaac Crentsil told the B&FT at a sensitisation seminar on transit trade in Accra.

Transporters, he said, have up to six months to get the containers built on their trucks so that they can still operate in the transit trade business under the new regime.

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He added: “We have decided to engage all stakeholders so we can put in place all the necessary Customs controls.

“We are going to give operators in the business a lot of time to prepare for the new directive; we have already engaged them [transporters]and today’s sensitisation seminar is just to come out and tell the public about the new system.”

Mr. Crentsil said the introduction of containerisation into the transit trade sector will enable Customs to rake in more revenues due the state, which can then be reinvested into ports’ efficiency to attract more transit business through the country’s ports.

“This will mean more transit business can take place at our ports, and more monies for the port authorities. Maximised trade revenue enables government to improve our roads for smooth and safe transportation of transit goods.

“2019 is going to witness massive growth in transit trade business while fraudulent transit transactions will cease.  Customs is bent on exceeding its revenue targets for this year by a wide margin, and we expect all stakeholders to play a fair game,” Mr. Crentsil indicated.

The stakeholder sensitisation seminar on transit trade was organised by the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) on the theme ‘Streamlining processes for the growth of transit trade in Ghana’.

It brought together all stakeholders in the transit trade business – including transiters, freight forwarders and transporters to help redefine operational requirements and re-emphasise effective Customs control of the sector within the dual objective of revenue assurance and trade facilitation.

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Chief Executive Officer of the GSA, Madam Benonita Bismarck, said transit trade has become a significant component of the country’s seaborne trade and delivered tangible benefits to the economy.

She called on stakeholders in the maritime logistics space, especially those within the transit trade area, to help in the walk to “a narrow path of trade facilitation and revenue assurance”, as any misstep will dim the country’s chances of benefitting from the trade.

She said: “Diversion of transit goods onto the domestic market shoots up the price of goods that are sold by importers who pay the right duties and taxes.

“Government want to introduce a measure that will not allow such unfair practices to continue. With this intervention, goods that are meant for transit will get to the final destination while those that meant for local consumption will have the applicable duties paid on them.”

She added: “We have pooled together the various stakeholders to familiarise, understand and accept the new directive before it is enforced.

“We hope to increase awareness of this directive through this seminar to help its smooth implementation.”

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