By Laudia Sawer, GNA
Tema, Feb. 12, GNA – The Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) has completed a study dubbed; “Time Release” to assess the average time goods under customs are cleared at the various ports and frontiers of Ghana.
The study, conducted between September 2022 and 2024, was done at the Tema Port, Kotoka International Airport, Aflao and Paga borders, to represent imports and exports for domestic consumption, transit trade, and petty trading across frontiers.
It was also aimed at serving as a benchmark for future studies, with the overall objective being the identification and elimination of bottlenecks within the clearance chain to facilitate international trade.
The Time Release Study had technical support from the World Customs Organisation and funding from donor agencies such as USAID.
Mr Smile Agbemenu, a Chief Revenue Officer at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), at a media forum, said although the study revealed that several factors impacted the time spent clearing goods at the ports those factors were not tied to one particular entity in the clearance chain.
On the part of declarants, there were issues like failure or delay in pre-arrival processes such as payment of duties and completion of permit application processes, which might result in delayed clearance time, he said.
Again, licenses, permits, and certificates issued by other state institutions in the clearance chain such as the Food and Drugs Authority, Ghana Standards Authority, and Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Departments could take weeks to acquire; thereby delaying application, which also affected clearance, he said.
He explained that depending on the nature of cargo imported, customs’ risk management systems could flag goods as highly suspicious and require them to go through rigorous inspection, which could cause some significant delays.
Mr Agbemenu, who is the Technical Chairman for the Time Release Study Project, said when cargo-carrying vessels berthed at the dedicated container terminal at Meridian Ports Services (MPS) Terminal 3, the cargos required to undergo rigorous inspection and devanning were transferred to the Golden Jubilee Terminal, which took some time, contributing to some delays for clearing the goods.
He acknowledged that the study also revealed aspects of delays caused by customs, other government agencies, and the private sector, and said recommendations had been made in the report towards improving those challenges.
Ms Diana Ayorkor Agbenyega, the Chief Revenue Officer and Project Manager for the Time Release Study, said the officers needed some refresher training while customs house agents must also be trained for a better understanding of the declaration processes.
She said although attaining the Government’s four-hour clearance target might not be immediately realised, they were looking forward to the an average time of under three days for clearing imports at the Tema Port.
She indicated that due to the comprehensive end-to-end nature of the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS), it was easy to establish the time stamps that aided the study.
Meanwhile, the study found that it took an average of 10 days 21 hours and 17 minutes to release cargo from customs control after berthing, while the average time at MPS was eight days, eight hours and 14 minutes.
On the other hand, the average time goods were cleared at the Golden Jubilee and Safebond Car Terminal was 14 days, four hours and nine minutes, while in some isolated cases it took a maximum of 53 days, 15 hours and 51 minutes, and a minimum of 17 hours and five minutes for cargo to be released after berthing.