Business News of Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Uncertainty has gripped stakeholders at Ghana’s ports of entry, as the much-anticipated rollout of the UNIPASS single window system for trade facilitation at the country’s ports could not come off as expected the country’s various sea ports and land border posts, 72 hours after it was supposed to commence.
This situation was confirmed to Goldstreet Business on Tuesday evening by Mr. Edmund Akrong, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders, who affirmed that the outgoing platform is still in use.
Currently, due to failed attempts to pilot the system and the resistance it has faced from the various stakeholders, it remains unclear when the UNIPASS single window system will be rolled-out at the various ports. However, government is insistent on rolling-out the system having set March 1 as the latest date for its commencement after two postponements since it was initially announced in 2018.
From the start, the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders had warned against a major setback in clearing activities at the Elubo and Aflao borders without the necessary training for the relevant stakeholders.
Already, the system Ghana Link tried demonstrating at Takoradi sea port was error ridden for which reason it could not be deployed at the port. The piloting of the system at the port on February 21, 2020, left importers disappointed as Ghana Link and its overseas partner CUPIA Korea could not demonstrate and successfully pilot the acclaimed newly built superior system.
Many importers and clearing agents have expressed their displeasure at government’s decision to hand over single window port operations to Ghana Link and its overseas partner, CUPIA Korea.
Stakeholders have expressed the opinion that the UNIPASS system is untested and therefore cannot successfully run single window at the ports, since this will only not create chaos at the port but will erode all the gains chalked by the introduction of the paperless port system, successfully introduced in September 2018.
For businesses operating at the ports, UNIPASS is widely expected to impact negatively on trade facilitation processes as it will add to their cost of operation. The trade facilitation fee of 0.75 percent initially set is higher than that of GCNet and West Blue cumulatively set at 0.68 percent.
The Senior Minister, Osafo Marfo in a letter dated February 26, 2020, directed Freight Fowarders, Clearing Agents and other stakeholders in the country, to use the UNIPASS system to clear their goods from Sunday March 1, 2020.
The Senior Minister’s directive had further indicated that system user materials and audio-video training materials would be dispatched to members of the freight forwarders groups at the points where the system would be rolled out from Sunday, March 1, 2020.
In March 2018, Ghana Link Network Services Limited, in collaboration with Customs UNI-PASS International Agency (CUPIA) of Korea Customs Services, was contracted by the Trade Ministry to introduce UNI-PASS to the ports system for ten years at a cost of $40m.
The deal was however suspended prior to take-off by the Economic Management Team (EMT) due to the inability of the promoters to demonstrate superior value and integrity of their technology as well as a unanimous rejection by port users.