Editorial: Demurrage waiver must be clarified for all stakeholders to abide by

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The Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA) has expressed its disappointment with the Ghana Shippers’ Authority over modalities being used to implement the directives to waive demurrage and rent charges.

This is because businesses were not able to operate within the lockdown period, and it is unimaginable that they would be able to accrue funds to clear their goods expeditiously.

Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, the Minister of Transport, has directed shipping companies to waive their demurrage/detention charges – fees importers pay for overstayed containers. However, importers are likely to be left with high costs to bear because of COVID-19-induced challenges when clearing goods from the ports.

GPHA has put in measures to implement the waiver – but shipping companies are seeking more clarification and approval from parent companies, generically known as their principals, before they can comply.

President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association (GUTA), Dr. Joseph Obeng, says his members have sent through several reports that shipping companies are disregarding the directive. Not all the shipping lines are respecting the waiver directive, and this poses a problem.

Almost all the over-one dozen shipping companies in the country are yet to comply with the waiver. Shipping companies continue to pay tariffs to the Ghana Shippers Authority; together with port dues, cargo dues, pilotage, and stevedore fees among others, which partly explains their reluctance to comply with the directive.

These charges run into thousands of dollars for each company, and they want to know if the government will offer some relief in exchange for the demurrage/detention waiver. The shipping companies are not ready to offer a waiver until they are sure of a fair playing field, therefore the government must come out clearly as to what is also in it for them.

They are calling for proper consultation, and we believe this is an assignment Ofori-Asiamah’s outfit can properly address so the waiver can be effectively applied. As the sector ministry in charge of transportation, it can make clear its directive on the waiver of demurrage and rent detention fees to bring about better compliance.

A situation wherein there are discrepancies does not bode well for the maritime industry.

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