A former President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Kwabena Ofosu Appiah has expressed worry that the industry trend that seeks to phase out freight forwarders as middle men while empowering the traders is a threat to the freight forwarding fraternity.
In that same vein, the seasoned freight forwarder has also identified this as an opportunity for the industry to evolve.
Mr. Ofosu Appiah said this in relation to the World Trade Organization initiative to facilitate trade at the most convenient and affordable means for traders which has gradually gained momentum globally. And as such, it is feared that clearing agents, like other forms of middle men, may be axed.
Speaking on the Eye on Port live program, he said while the fraternity’s activities are backed by legislation, clearing and forwarding agents should not be comfortable with the present insulation that it provides. Instead, Mr. Ofosu Appiah has called for clearing agents and freight forwarders to continue to explore ways they can provide value for traders.
“Let us not allow let statutory demands shape us. But let’s get closer to the trader who is the prima donna and kingpin of our existence, and find more solutions that will wow the customer so that legislation or no legislation, there is value. We should plug ourselves into the trader’s supply chain architecture and offer solutions they can’t provide. That way we cut their cost, and stress to handle everything.”
“For example, these big supermarkets, if their clearing and forwarding agents have the capacity to plug their inventory system, can you imagine how much load is taken off their heads and how much efficiency is introduced?” Mr. Ofosu Appiah quizzed.
Also contributing to the discourse, another Former President of GIFF, Mr. Joseph Agbaga also supported the call for evolution of the freight forwarding industry. He opined that modern freight forwarder in Ghana have been able to evolve to position themselves as third party logistics service providers capable of doing beyond customs brokerage.
“We have seen this coming, and we are becoming more sophisticated and we are aware of our customers knowing that international transport solutions do not lie in isolation but a partnership between a customer and a freight forwarder. Against this backdrop, there has been the use of Information technology to make things happen,” he said.
Both former presidents of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders were like-minded in the emphasis that the freight forwarder is a key, indispensable component in international trading activities by virtue of the exposure the practice gives.
Mr. Ofosu Appiah said with the freight forwarder serving as liaisons between shipping lines, government actors and ports, they have been able to ascertain industry standards especially pertaining to prices of goods and services and are able to facilitate fair and cost-efficient trade processes.
Mr. Agbaga added that freight forwarders by virtue of their work, must be “a storehouse of knowledge” to assist traders go through the supply chain at the least possible level of hustle.
“You should be able to understand the nuances of trade like how to interpret a sales contract and other formal process,” he stated.
The veteran freight forwarders nonetheless expressed dissatisfaction about how much government policies take into consideration the opinion of that particular industry.