The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) is unhappy with the Ghana Shippers’ Authority over modalities being used to implement the directives to waive demurrage and rent charges.
The Ghana Shippers’ Authority has sent a notice to all its stakeholders that the directive to waive demurrage and rent charges at the port will affect goods which defaulted payment between March 30 and April 19 – the partial lockdown period for Greater Accra, Kasoa and Greater Kumasi.
In a letter to all stakeholders sighted by the B&FT, the GSA stated: “We hereby inform you of the suspension of all applicable time-related penalties – i.e. demurrage/detention and storage rent charges, in the clearance of cargo at the port in the wake of the COVID-19 induced restriction, effective March 30, 2020. In other words, demurrage/detention and storage rent charges on all cargo which has remained uncleared at the port from March 30, 2020 to April 19, 2020 are to be waived”.
The letter explained, “The directive is to ensure that in their bid to avert accumulation of the above mentioned time-related penalties, shippers and other stakeholders do not take actions which have a tendency to jeopardise government’s efforts at curbing spread of the disease (COVID-19)”.
This is coming on the back of the Ministry of Transport’s directive to the Ghana Shippers’ Authority to suspend all applicable charges, including demurrage or detention and storage rent charges on cargo which have remained uncleared since the partial lockdown came into effect on 30th March, 2020.
But the implementation modality has not gone down well with GUTA, with it describing the development as pointless. The President of GUTA, Dr. Joseph Obeng, in an interview with the B&FT said the window for qualification to the waiver is unreasonable.
According to him, businesses were not able to operate within the lockdown period, and it would be unimaginable that they would be able to accrue funds to clear their goods in the immediate future; even more so because business is slowly picking up after suspension of the lockdown.
“During the lockdown we all faced some unbudgeted spending to ensure that we kept our staff and business alive. Money that was meant for clearing our goods was touched, and therefore many of my members are now working hard to get some funds to clear their goods.
“We are not asking for a long period, but we want the Shippers’ Authority to know that we are in a dire financial crisis – the reason why we pushed for the waiver. But what we are being given is a raw deal, and it will achieve very little or no impact on our operations if allowed to stand. We are grateful for the move, very grateful, but we can accept this,” Dr. Obeng told this paper.
The Association is however urging the Ghana Shippers’ Authority to revise the window of opportunity to a reasonable period after the lockdown, to give its members opportunity to accrue funds for clearing their goods.
“The Association will be grateful if members are given a 3-week grace period, starting from April 19, 2020 – the day the lockdown suspension was announced.
“We wish the lockdown period was not even factored, because those were the times we could not engage in any meaningful business. We hope and believe that our concerns will fall on fertile ground as always,” Dr. Obeng said.