Gov’t call to deal with licensed and credible clearing agents

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mporters have been advised to deal with licensed and credible clearing agents to ensure that they are not defrauded or unduly burdened with cost during the clearance of their vehicles.

Clearing or freight forwarders are the intermediaries between importers and state agencies in the clearance chain. By Law, an importer requires the services of a clearing agent to assist him or her to clear goods out of the Port but unfortunately, there have been too many instances, when importers have reported to Eye on Port of being defrauded by unscrupulous clearing agents.

Speaking live on Eye on Port, the General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Affairs of Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority, Esther Gyebi-Donkor, Manda Salifu, Chief Revenue Officer in charge of the Golden-Jubilee car park and Kwaku Okyere Darko, a Technical Committee Member at the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders advised importers to desist from handing over the clearance of their goods to quack agents.

“We need to advise our importers that they really need to go legitimate clearing and forwarding agents so that we are able to do away with these unscrupulous ones who are in the system,” she advised.

Kwaku Okyere Darko, in addressing the public’s concern on how to ascertain licensed clearing agents, said the best option is to go to customs who license these clearing agents to recommend a reliable professional.

“We have a list of companies and even if you want to have an agency that is credible you can go to Customs or you can even go to GPHA,” he said.

The technical committee member of GIFF, who said a clearing agent, being the mediator between importer and shipping & port service providers, suggested that in order for importers to not suffer to inflated fees by clearing agents, importers have the prerogative to check the right duties by texting the declaration number to 1477 on all networks.

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“So what we do is that you can do a non-validated declaration and send to that importer via WhatsApp or e-mail and he will see the amount he is supposed to pay. If he wants to pay the duty by himself or herself he will ask you to send the validated one and then he or she can proceed to the bank and pay by himself or herself,” he revealed.

According to the General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, GPHA, to address potential cargo release delays, importers or clearing agents should acquire the release from Shipping lines, and customs which would be able to grant, the terminal operator or the Ghana Ports and Harbors Authority order to release cargo.

“I would also like to advise the clearing and forwarding agents to make sure that they go through the shipping line release. We are holding custody of those cargoes on behalf of the shipping lines so we are unable to release it to the importer if they have not obtain the shipping line release,” she stated.

She said the invoice of the port authority’s charges is made accessible to the clearing agent electronically and revealed that to improve transparency of estimated charges to the importer, GPHA is coming up with a mobile app that will provide a pro forma invoice, similar to the Ghana’s trading Hub, by customs.

She revealed that although the Port Authority charges are fixed, they are on a case by case basis because the various categories of services that are rendered come with separate charges and according to Esther Gyebi Donkor, these fees are available to all in GPHA’s published tariffs.

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“We do have the handling charge for class or group of vehicles. We have segmented them into saloon cars, mini cars, utility vehicles and trailers so the charge per these categories are different,” she revealed.

Manda Salifu, Chief Revenue Officer in charge of the Golden-Jubilee car park advised importers to acquaint themselves with the technical complexities of the import clearance process, despite delegating clearing agents to do that on their behalf, in order to demand accountability.

In addressing how the final duty payable often differs from the estimated duties calculated on the Ghana’s trading hub platform, she disclosed that one particular type of vehicle, due to its age, or assorted editions and special features, can be subject to varying duties.

“They came with special features and that makes the difference, for example I brought my Mercedes, another person bought the same type but he is paying different from me. It is probably because they are different editions,” she disclosed.

She revealed that values of cars are calculated from the manufacturers’ retail price, whereas the values depreciate following the number of years, a car has been in existence.

Touching on the 30% discount rendered on the home delivery values of cars introduced by government, the Chief Revenue Officer said imports on cars have surged, because traders are happy about the reduction in duties and the belief is that this would translate into increased revenue generation for government.

Kwaku Okyere Darko, however, lamented the new GRA policy that requires duties on cargoes to be paid before they are transferred to the Golden Jubilee for devanning, saying it has made the process cumbersome and costly for importers.

“One of the challenges that has arisen out of this policy that we are facing now that is, paying of duties before containers are transferred to Golden Jubilee. It impedes the flow of work. It has been a huge challenge that we want customs to rectify,” he bemoaned.

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He described customs examination officers as adding to the cause of delays in the clearance chain, revealing that sometimes they indulge in duplication of services.

Kwaku Okyere Darko also questioned some of fees charged by the Port Authority, for example the transfer charges from the devanning yard to car park and asked for review saying it brings added cost to the importer.

Esther Gyebi Donkor, General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Affairs of GPHA, however said, these charges are legitimate as GPHA renders transfer services to customers.

“Because we have to drive them from the unstuffing platforms to the delivery bay we have engaged drivers for those ones that are drivable and for those ones that are non-driveable we have to use our forklifts,” she explained.
According to the Chief Revenue Officer, vehicles yet to be cleared after some days are taken to the Safebond Car Terminal and rent is accrued on them which is mandatory to be paid.

After cars are neglected from payment after 60 days of stay at the port, they are detained by the state who gazette them for public auction and allocation.

In order not to suffer this fate, she advised importers to be well prepared before importing vehicles to the country.

“So that is why people need to make enquiries before they bring in cars because I don’t see how you will use your money to buy a car and come and abandon it at the port,” she advised

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