Make Accra an African centre of Arbitration – Dr. Mbiah

Dr Kofi Mbiah, Chief Executive Officer, Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA), on Thursday proposed a African Centre for Arbitration in resolving international commercial disputes confronting the maritime industry in Accra.

“With the increase in international commercial activities including the emerging oil and gas industry, Ghana would need to put in place appropriate structures as well as the necessary legal framework and build capacity to establish Accra as important centre for arbitration of international commercial disputes in Africa.”

Dr Mbiah who was speaking at the seventh maritime law seminar for Judges of the Superior Courts in Accra, noted the move would help cut down cost of entrepreneurs who travel to London, Hong Kong, New York, and Singapore to have their cases settled.

The two day seminar would discuss issues such as, “The law relating to the sale and purchase of ships, the law on carriage of goods by air, the genesis of and consequences of Maritime piracy and the potential solution for the emerging oil-based economy among others issues.”

Dr Mbiah pointed out that entrepreneurs who may be involved in litigation, had to abandon their legitimate claims because of lack of confidence in the judicial system and they may need to have their cases adjudicated in a foreign jurisdiction at very high cost.

He observed that players in international business transactions preferred resolution of cases through arbitration.

Dr Mbiah said there was a direct correlation between increased international commercial transaction and the number of attendant cases that came before the courts hence the need to continue to educate judges on emerging trends in the industry.

He said the GSA would remain committed to assisting the judiciary so that judicial access either by way of litigation or arbitration could be quickened or made less burdensome for entrepreneurs.

To this end, the GSA in the coming year would also be organizing tailor made seminars in maritime law for lawyers.

On the performance of the maritime industry, Dr Mbiah said the year 2009, witnessed the worst global recession in the last decade.

“In the year 2009, globally, total goods loaded amounted to 7.8 billion tons, down from 8.2 billion tonnes in 2008,” he added.

This global trend, Dr Mbiah noted, reflected in Ghana’s total cargo output which dropped from 14.5 million tonnes in 2008 to 12 million tonnes in 2009.

However, Dr Mbiah said, by the end of the year 2010, Ghana’s output had climbed to 13.9 million tonnes representing an increase of 16 per cent over the year 2009.

According to him, at the end of September this year, the total output had increased from 11.5 million tonnes as compared to 9.3 million tonnes at the end of September, 2010.

Alhaji Collins Dauda, Minister of Transport, said one of the major driving forces behind economic development was international trade and transport.

There was the need to pay attention to matters affecting international trade and transport by providing the necessary infrastructure, he said.

To this end, the Minister said 450-500 million dollars out of the Chinese Development Loan was expected to be spent on the Railway rehabilitation and modernization component of the Western Corridor Infrastructure Renewal project.

In addition, Alhaji Dauda said, 150 -200 million dollars had also been earmarked for the Phase One of the Takoradi Port rehabilitation so that the port could cope with increasing business associated with the exploitation of the country’s oil and gas.

He described the seminar as timely because the country would need requisite legislation to deal with emerging issues as well as a strong and viable judiciary to adjudicate on international trade and transportation.

“We need to continuously update our judges in the dynamic and specialized area of the law as it evolves,” he remarked.

Alhaji Dauda observed that the ascendency of maritime piracy was now becoming as issue of concern to international maritime agencies, labour organizations and the world as whole.

“The recent piratical attacks off the coast of Lome and Cotonou are now too close for comfort and have undoubtedly heightened our cause for concern,” observed.

The Minister assured Ghanaians that the Ghana Navy and Ghana Maritime Authority and allied agencies were ready to respond swiftly to the menace of maritime piracy.

According to him, the menace of piracy, armed robbery, oil theft, damage to oil and gas pipelines, maritime accidents, marine pollution and other unlawful acts against shipping on the high seas and other trading routes were also worrisome.

“There is no doubt that Ghana should allow the acts of piracy along the Gulf of Guinea to fester…. our competitiveness in the international trader stands to be unduly affected to our detriment, as insurance premiums for our imports and exports will necessarily rise,” he added.

The Minister assured the GSA that the Ministry would work with the Parliament to pass the GSA regulations in order to create an appropriate regulatory framework so as to achieve competitiveness that shippers craved for.

Source: GNA

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