GUTA raises red flag about shipping container fees

High freight charges are becoming a nightmare for traders and importers who say the cost of renting or shipping a container from Asia and Europe has skyrocketed from $3000 to $13,000 dollars.

Importers and Exporters, to this end, are pleading with government to maintain charges at the ports despite the increase in international freight charges.

Dr. Joseph Obeng, President of the Ghana Union of Traders Association disclosed to Charles Ayitey on the Market Place that the development needs urgent attention from stakeholders – especially as it could impact price of goods and services in the country, moving forward.

“The containers that we have been renting has gone astronomically high – this is impeding importers. Most importers are not importing at this time. A lack of productivity in China and Europe is leading to containers coming in empty,” he stated.

Meanwhile, the Ghana Exports Promotion Authority (GEPA), has hinted of some arrangements to cushion entrepreneurs and importers from the brunt of this trend.

Speaking on the Market Place, Deputy CEO of GEPA, Samuel Dentu explained that even though government has no grasp on the business dealings of these international shipping lines, negotiations are the best resort.

“We have had lots of meetings with organizations in the freighting business to ensure that the goods of traders don’t get stuck offshore. GEPA does not have the authority to slash down prices. Meanwhile, we are in talks with the freight companies to be a middle organization that brings both parties together to ensure an affordable price for traders,” he revealed.

GUTA is calling on the government to strongly appeal to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) and shipping lines to give unconditional waivers on demurrage and rent charges during the lockdown period.

In a statement, the Association complained that despite the lockdown affecting Greater Accra, Tema, Kasoa and Greater Kumasi, ultimately leading to the closure of their businesses, shipping lines which were exempted from the restrictions “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 Ghana Ports and Harbor Authority is also asking importers to clear their goods from their warehouses or pay further rent charges,” GUTA stressed.

This, GUTA said, has been very difficult as the closure of its members’ businesses in adherence to the lockdown procedures has left many of them with little to no funds to pay the duties at the ports.

According to GUTA, despite persistent calls through the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ghana Shippers Authority to the GPHA and Shipping lines, their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

“It is quite sad that to them it is business as usual while the importer, because of the national interest, is adhering to government’s directives so as to ensure that we all fight this very contagious pandemic together,” the statement read.

GUTA is, therefore, asking the government to waive the demurrage and rent charges unconditionally during this lockdown period.