As part of measures to mitigate the economic impact of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) on businesses, the Minister of Transport, Kwaku Ofori-Asiamah, has directed the Ghana Shippers’ Authority to suspend all applicable charges such as demurrage or detention and storage rent charges on all cargo that have remained uncleared since the partial lockdown came into effect on 30th March, 2020.
In a letter to the Ghana Shippers Authority, the Minister explained that, this is to ensure that shippers and other stakeholders do not take actions that may thwart government’s efforts at stemming the spread of the virus on the basis of preventing the accumulation of costs in the clearance of their cargoes.
He also stated that, following President Nana Akufo-Addo’s announcement that all cargoes can move in and out of the country despite the partial lockdown, “a number of unintended consequences have resulted from the current state of affairs. For instance, while some peculiar circumstances have prevented some shippers from clearing their cargo from the ports, others have also encountered some challenges in the process.”
“The effect of these developments and the far-reaching consequences on the shipping public, may altogether defeat the fight against the COVID-19,” he added.
It will be recalled that the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), on April 10th 2020, announced that the clearance of all types of goods at the country’s sea ports is in progress despite the restrictions of movement of persons imposed in parts of the country in the wake of the novel Coronavirus.
Halt demurrage and rent charges
Last week, the Ghana Union of Traders’ Associations (GUTA), petitioned government to compel the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) and the shipping lines to refrain from claiming demurrage and rent charges on cargo at the country’s ports during the period of the partial lock-down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
They said, “It is very sad that while most of our members cannot move out freely because they are all adhering to the restrictions announced by government, the shipping lines are asking that since they are still working, our members whose goods have arrived at the ports should clear them or pay demurrage if the containers continue to remain at the ports during this lockdown period,” the statement noted.
GUTA commends government
GUTA in a statement issued on 19th April, 2020 commended government, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Trade and Industry for the swift response to their demand.
“It is gratifying that the Minister for Transport has moved swiftly directing the Ghana Shippers Authority to communicate to all relevant stakeholders to suspend all charges i.e. demaurage and rent charges on all cargo that are uncleared during the lock-down period. This will ensure that everyone complies with government directives during this lock-down period,” the statement said.
“This again shows that government, at this very trying moment, is listening to the business community and is ready to continue to work with the private sector to ensure that we forge ahead in unison,” they added.
They further noted that, “it is our hope that all the relevant stakeholders, the Shipping lines and GPHA, will in good faith comply with this directives for sanity to prevail at our various port of entries.”