Shippers community decry container demurrage charges

Accra,The Shipper Community has decried container demurrage charges classifying it as unacceptable and avoidable financial burden on industry players.

The Shippers have decided to begin to scream loud to ignite government and stakeholders’ intervention.

The Shipper Community outlined number of issues which they classified as critical contributory factors for shippers to hold containers in the terminal longer than agreed free days and called for immediate intervention.

Mr Fred Asiedu-Dartey, Chairman of the West Africa Branch of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) led the Shipper Community to sound the loud cry at the first ICS maritime stakeholders’ conference on Container Demurrage in Accra.

The ICS maritime stakeholders’ conference is on the general theme: Container Demurrage; Its administration and impact on Ghana’s Maritime Industry.

Mr Asiedu-Dartey noted that over 80 per cent of liner cargo cannot be cleared from the ports within the allowable seven days free time, which leads to an estimated US$100 million being paid in a year as demurrage.

He also blamed aspects of administrative frameworks that were not clear to the shipper community and therefore called on government and stakeholders to fix the challenges and operational lapses within the cargo handling systems to ensure that goods were cleared faster through more efficient arrangements.

Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry shared the concern of the shipper community on container demurrage and attributed the problem to inefficiencies in the clearance procedures, which some shippers exploit to cash in on demurrage.

He affirmed ICS’s revelation that huge sum of money went into the demurrage business which could have also benefited the country and should be stopped.

Mr Ahenkorah recommended that agents should be allowed to put insurance policies against container detention to covers those that would be back after taken out.

He also emphasised on need for capacity building and challenged ICS to ensure operators in the sector to regularly update their professional skills in accordance with international standards.

Dr Kofi Mbiah, former Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Shipper’s Authority noted that container demurrage was having dangerous impact on Ghana’s maritime industry.

He noted that the shipper community was at pains to understand exactly the calculation of the seven days free time and found it ambiguous even holidays and weekends are included in the calculations.

It is also unclear the commencement day whether its start as soon as vessel arrives and at what time it arrives. There is total lack of uniformity some ports begin to count immediately it arrives.

Dr Mbiah emphasised that 80 per cent of liner cargos are unable to clear within the given period because of delay from service providers and activities of unreliable clearing agents and inconsistencies in its operations, difficulties in locating containers and also delays in the receipts of cargo documentation.

He recommended that much education for shippers on the automation of the clearance procedure.

He said there was the need to introduce a better system for tracking containers and increase the number of customs officials at the ports to reduce the hours spent on handling containers.

Mr Karl Franz, ICS Chairman explained that container demurrage was a bane to the Maritime Industry…without shipping there will be no globalisation and therefore it helps to sustain economic growth in the country.

He stressed that container demurrage was a huge issue not only in Ghana but all over the world as such delays affected financial issues in a country.

Ms Julie Lithgow, ISC Director at the Institute’s headquarters in London said the aim of the institute was to support and encourage the next generation through teaching and mentoring.

She said the importance of maritime trading to the economic development of the world could not be under-estimated as countries that were able to trade fairly grew richer.

Ms Lithgow noted that sea transportation and trade used to be the cheapest means of business, but in recent times impact of container demurrage had gradually eroded that impression.

The ICS is the professional body for all members of the commercial shipping industry including; shipbrokers, ship managers and agents, and other maritime practitioners.

Source: Ghana News Agency