Shippers community decry container demurrage charges

Francis Ameyibor, GNA

Accra, July 5, GNA – 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

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

“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.


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