A 12-member National Maritime Facilitation Committee to check illicit trade including drugs has been inaugurated in Accra.

The committee would also see to the effective implementation of mariti.me traffic facilitation measures that would enhance the competitiveness of ports and promote international trade in the country.

Other functions of the committee are to prevent and suppress unlawful acts in the ports, promote quick clearance of ships, cargo and passengers in the ports, prevent unnecessary delays in maritime traffic in ports by aiding co­operation between governments, and establish procedures for the training of users of the Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Single Window.

Others are to liaise with other national facilitation committees in various countries to speed up the process of change, promote electronic means of the clearing ships and do any other matters relevant to the work.

Inaugurating the committee, the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Collins Dauda, said Ghana, as a contracting member of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) convention on the facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), was to simplify and minimise formalities, documentary requirements and procedures associated with the arrival, stay and departure of ships that were engaged in international voyages.

He said International Maritime Transport also required considerable amount of information and documentation pertaining to ships for clearance but those procedures led to bureaucratic red tape and unnecessary delays in ports.

Alhaji Dauda expressed optimism that the work of the committee would provide an opportunity for the various stakeholders to harmonise their procedures and requirements in line with international best practice.

?Doing business at the ports is becoming very difficult because of congestion. It is also a positive sign that the economy is booming but if you are not able to clear your goods in time, it delays work process,? he said.

He said if the country was able to facilitate the clearance of ships at the port, it would attract more businesses into the country and international trade businesses would flourish and revenue would come into the country for socioeconomic development.

Alhaji Dauda also urged the committee to embark on periodic field visits and critically assess the status of the ports in terms of service delivery and operational bottlenecks.

This, he said, would help propose practical measures to reduce ships and cargo delays at the ports.

He also expressed confidence that the committee would come up with requisite recommendations to facilitate international trade and reduce the cost of doing business at the ports.

The Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Mr Peter Issaka Azuma, in his address, said the queue of ships at the ports had adverse port costs and maritime security implications.

He said while it was acknowledged that the current port congestion was due to lack of adequate capacity and increased traffic, the reduction of red tape and efficient service delivery at the various segments of the ports? corridor could improve facility availability, reduce port cost and enhance maritime security.

?There is the need to optimise the use of intrinsic port capacity by promoting synchronised operations for the seamless flow of cargo and traffic through the ports,? he said.

Mr Azuma who is the chairman of the committee, however, reaffirmed the GMA?s commitment to provide the requisite secretarial services and logistics support for the effective performance of the work of the committee.

Members of the committee include the Director-General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Mr Peter Issaka Azuma; Ms Perpetual Osei Bonsu from the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana, Ms Sylvia Asana Owu from the Ghana Shipper?s Authority, Mr Samuel Ntow-Kummi from the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Mr Paul Asare-Bediako from the Customs Excise and Preventive Service and Mr David Nutakor from the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders.

Others are Mr Ntim Donkor from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Mr Octchere Boakye from the Ghana Immigration Service, Mr Prosper Amewode from the Ministry of Transport, Nii Sowah Adjetey- Tormpu from the United Fish Stevedore Contactors Association, Mr Jonathan Forson from the Ghana Customs and Inspections and the secretary of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Mr Samuel Quaye.

Source: Daily Graphic

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