Importers and exporters (port users) have raised red flags about a persistent decision by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to quote its port tariffs in United States dollars instead of cedis.
The GPHA recently reviewed its tariffs at all ports. The new tariffs came into effect on 1 July 2022 and port users have been paying the new tariffs in dollars to date.
Port users who spoke off record to Asaase News claim that GPHA’s practice of quoting tariffs in dollars is having an adverse effect on their business and may be directly to blame for the rising cost of living and high inflation in the country, as well as the depreciation of the cedi against the dollar.
They also argued that for a statutory corporation such as the GPHA, responsible for building, planning developing, managing, maintaining, operating and controlling all ports in Ghana, to charge tariffs in dollars totally defeats the fight against the dollarisation phenomenon in Ghana.
Justifying dollar quotations
The GPHA, the port users say, have justified quoting their tariffs in United States dollars by referring to a Bank of Ghana letter dated 17 February 2014, signed by one Caroline Otoo, describing herself as “the secretary”, and addressed to the GPHA director general.
The letter, tilted “Invoicing Exporters in Foreign Exchange”, state: “We refer to the recent Bank of Ghana notices on invoicing, making payments and receiving foreign exchange by residents.
“We wish to clarify that all exporters of goods and services are permitted to invoice their clients in foreign exchange. This provision has not changed.
“Port services provided by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to non-resident clients are considered to be exports and therefore the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority is authorised to invoice such services in foreign exchange.
“However, provision of goods and services to resident clients shall only be invoiced in Ghana cedis,” reads the 2014 letter used by GPHA officials to justify their tariff quotes in dollars.
Tariffs in dollars
Backing their claims with evidence, the port users referred to an 88-page document entitled Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Port Tariffs, Seaports of Ghana, July 2022.
“In exercise of the powers conferred on the board of directors of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority Law 1986 (PNDCL 160), the following revised Port Tariff is hereby published and shall take effect from July 1 2022,” says the document.
“Where in this tariff no charge has been prescribed for a particular service, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority shall in each particular case determine an appropriate rate to be applied for such services,” the forward of the 88-page document read.
“Take a look at the first schedule. All port dues on vessels are quoted in dollars. It is the same for port dues on cargo. Importers of bulk grains at the Tema Port, for example, are to pay US$2.53 per tonne, among others.
“Importers of crude oil and refined petroleum products also have their tariff charges per tonne quoted in dollars at US$3.17 at Tema Port and US$3.67 at Takoradi Port,” said one of the importers who spoke to Asaase News.
“The government must intervene on this issue urgently. GPHA, no matter the justification for quoting their tariffs in dollars, must take a second look at their decision and review it, because it defeats the whole purpose of fighting the use of dollars in Ghana for day-to-day transactions,” another importer said.
Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) is a statutory corporation established under Ghana’s Provisional National Defence Council Law (PNDCL 160) of 1986 to build, plan, develop, manage, maintain, operate and control all ports in Ghana.
The Authority manages and operates the sea ports of Ghana and various business units in collaboration with a number of private service providers in the areas of vessel handling, stevedoring, transfer, storage, receipt and delivery of containerised and general cargo. Others are safety, security and conservancy services.
GPHA’s business units currently comprise: Port of Tema, Port of Takoradi, Port of Keta (yet to be operational), Tema and Takoradi Fishing Harbours, Tema Shipyard and Drydock, the Transit Sahelian Liaison Office in Burkina Faso, GPHA Clinic, Tema International Maritime Hospital (IMaH) and the GPHA Hospital in Takoradi.
Their major customers include ship owners and their agents, freight forwarders, cargo handling companies, importers and exporters, haulage companies, ship chandlers, off-dock terminal operators, warehouse companies, dock labour pool operators, etc.
GPHA has a vision to reduce the cost of trade, provide and maintain efficient modern port facilities, aid in regional development and also provide and maintain safe and secure sea ports for the nation and West African region.
GPHA ports are highly competitive and they operate paperless clearance procedures as well efficient cargo delivery systems.