The roll-out of the paperless ports followed Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia’s Directive during a Port Efficiency Conference organised in May this year.
Dr Bawumia’s three-points Directive include; the removal of all customs barriers on the country’s transit corridor, a joint inspection by all regulatory agencies and a hundred percent paperless transactions at the ports from September 1, 2017.
He followed up with an official unveiling of a road map of the paperless process to guide the operators and agencies in the port clearance chain.
Ahead of the implementation of the Directive, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), the Ghana Community Network, the West Blue Consulting, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Ghana Shippers Authority, the Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and a host of other stakeholder institutions embarked on several engagements with importers and freight forwarders, to educate them on the changes that would occur on their systems.
On Friday, September 1, although the ports delivery unit, which required clearance transactions did not function because it was a statutory holiday, the ship side was functional.
According to the ports authorities, two persons made requests online, which the GPHA’s operational team were able to respond appropriately.
“We received two requests for services from the GICCS platform, one being a reefer container and the other a dry container. When the request was received we were able to generate an invoice and sent it back to the GICCS platform for the agent to have access,” Madam Josephine Gyima-Akwafo, the Corporate Planning and Monitoring Manager of the GPHA, said.
She, however, said on Saturday, September 2, the Revenue Centre was a bit slow, but pockets of clearing agents came to the Centre to make enquiries on how to make their requests online.
Madam Esther Gyebi-Donkor, the General Manager in charge of Marketing and Corporate Affairs of GPHA, said the ports authorities provided a Customer Service Centre to assist agents to use the online systems without any difficulties.
“We were able to put our customer service in place. We ensured that all the people who came to the Revenue Centre to process the old forms were given detailed exposure on how they have to start making their requests in the system from Monday.
“The number of people who came around to do clearance had started the process already with the old system so we let them to go through a transition period in order to clear those ones through the old system,” she said.
Mr Paul Asare Ansah, the Director-General of the GPHA, Mr Edward Osei, the Director of Tema Port and the General Manager, Corporate Affairs and Marketing at GPHA, toured the various centres to ascertain the number of requests made by agents including the Golden Jubilee Terminal.
The port authorities expressed the belief that the successful take-off of the paperless operations would continue in the days to come and any challenges that may be encountered would be worked out gradually to perfect the system.
The West Blue Consulting Limited and the Ghana Community Network Services are mainly the Information Technology (IT) systems reliability and sustenance providers for the paperless processes and both expressed satisfaction with the successful roll-out of the transactions.
They said traders, who hitherto complained about delays, would benefit greatly.
The paperless ports reforms would ensure that transactions such as customs release, port requests for delivery, terminal payments, waybill, loading and exiting were done within four hours.