There is growing frustration over the influx of foreign nationals in Ghana taking part in Customs House Brokerage and as a result, industry players are calling for the law to take precedence in order to protect Ghanaians.
Section 43 of Act 891 of the Customs Law of 2015, states that a company or partnership shall not engage in the business of custom house agents unless that company or partnership is wholly owned by an indigenous Ghanaian and has been granted a license by the Commissioner General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
Lamenting his outfit’s grievances on the Eye on Port programme, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Eddy Akrong, said the law is explicit and should be implemented as such.
Eddy Akrong said, “freight forwarding is an international profession, so there isn’t a hold on that. Be it shipping, warehousing, transport. However, the law is specific on the brokerage business.”
He narrated some complaints from members of his association who are getting frustrated by the increasing number of foreigners engaged in customs house business at the ports, and feared that if not tackled immediately, it could degenerate into an unpleasant upheaval.
The President of GIFF said Ghana cannot afford to cede the custom house business, which is responsible for employing hundreds of Ghanaian youths to foreigners, and thus should be treated as a national security issue.
“Off the top of my head I can name indigenous companies such as Bajfreight, CONSHIP and McDan among others, who employ not less than 300-400 people each. We cannot allow these businesses to go away,” he bemoaned.
Speaking on the same programme, the Executive Director at the Centre for International Maritime Affairs, Ghana (CIMAG), Albert Derrick Fiatui, likened the pervasive nature of the foreign infiltration in customs house brokerage to the galamsey menace, and needs similar attention.
He disclosed that his outfit has petitioned the trade and transport committee in parliament and will continue to aggressively pursue this matter until justice prevails.
Mr. Fiatui said, “We have conducted research and have established a number of these companies that are engaged in the business of customs around, even though they are foreigners. We are willing to engage customs to crack the whip and expose them.”
The Executive Director CIMAG also said they seek to engage the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAAG) as it appears its members are those engaged in this illegality.
He added that, “Customs says they are not giving license to foreigners. So, if other people are coming in, then it means something is going wrong somewhere. Of course, we also know there are unscrupulous agents who also connive with these foreign nationals and do these registrations. It is for us, and the system in general to be able to monitor and fish out such people so that the law deals with them and serve as deterrent to others.”
Albert Fiatui bemoaned that just as the cabotage law protects the local maritime industry in Nigeria, Ghana should take hold of its existing law to ensure sanity.
Addressing the concerns raised, Principal Revenue Officer in Charge of Policy and Programmes at the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, Jerry Mensah Brookman emphasized that GRA does not issue licenses to unqualified companies.
He said companies who have been given licenses to operate as customs house agents satisfy requirements which include verifying Ghanaian nationality at the Registrar General’s department and passing the proficiency test.
However, the Customs Official said the apparent gap begs the question of the phenomenon of fronting, and that should be further investigated.
“You are supposed to engage in customs business on electronic platforms. For you to do that, you should have a code. And its people who have been issued licenses are those with the code. So, there is no way foreign nationals who haven’t gone through the process will be able to access the electronic platform. Is it an issue of Ghanaians fronting for them?” he quizzed.
Jerry Mensah Brookman called for increased collaboration from stakeholders including CIMAG and the Customs House Associations towards a suitable resolution.