The Chief Justice (CJ) Justice Kwasi Anin Yeboah, has called for the enhancement of the country’s legal system to deal effectively with issues that arise from the maritime sector of the economy.
Justice Yeboah said the judicial arm of government could only perform its duty meritoriously if the judges are well equipped.
According to him, it is vital for judges who would preside over maritime cases to be abreast with the laws governing the sector, hence the call for their empowerment to handle cases relating to the shipping, piracy and allied matters.
Speaking at the opening of the 13th Maritime Law Seminar for Superior Court Justices, the CJ said, with pirate attacks being recorded in Ghana’s territorial waters, issues of arrests of ships, judicial sale and distribution of proceeds would arise in adjudication.
“Therefore, my Lords and Lady Justices would have to be well equipped to deal with them in a manner that would stimulate economic growth,” he said.
Ghana’s international maritime trade has witnessed a tremendous growth in the volumes of cargo passing through its ports.
Volumes of import and export shot up from about 15 million tons in 2014 at Tema and Takoradi ports to about 20 million tons in 2019.
This has attracted high sea crimes at the Gulf of Guinea,lying along Ghana, between January and October 2021 alone, with as many as 39 incidents recorded.
To the CJ, the surge in maritime crimes is worrying as Ghana had since last year recorded nine cases in its territorial waters, out of which six incidents took place last year.
He said three occurrences took place between January and June this year, while the attacks were mainly on ships transporting bulk petroleum and its products and ships carrying exotic goods.
He acknowledged the recent call by President Nana Akufo-Addo for concerted efforts between West African leaders to deal with the growing threats as they can affect maritime trade.
Justice Yeboah said the shipping industry required all the attention it could get because it was the most efficient and cost-effective method of international transportation and trade.
He, therefore, commended stakeholders in the industry for ensuring that more than 80 per cent of global trade were kept resolute despite the disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ghana Shippers’ Authority
The GSA Chief Executive Officer, Benonita Bismarck, said the contribution of maritime trade to the country’s economic development was critical, and with advancements in the sector to enhance ease of doing business, deliberate efforts were being done to ensure that players in the sector had clarity on legal procedures both locally and globally.
While highlighting the success chalked by the introduction of the Integrated Customs Management System and Paperless Port Clearance System, she said un-cleared Cargo List and administration and management was a challenge to the shipping sector.
She said through the advocacy of the GSA, a committee had been set up by the Transport Ministry to resolve the issues, including the un-cleared consignments of state institutions, which had been at the ports for about three years.
Ms Bismarck said the Authority was also working with other stakeholders to streamline charges at the ports and reduce the cost of shipping.
The Acting Director of the Judicial Training Institute(JTI), Justice Dennis Adjei, commended GSA for supporting the training of Justices and appealed to the Authority to support some justices to pursue further courses in maritime law.
About 50 Justices attended the two-day event, organised by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority (GSA) and the Judicial Training Institute (JTI) to build their capacity on contemporary happenings in the industry.
They were taken through topics including piracy and terrorism by Osei Bonsu Dickson, Director Legal, Ministry of National Security; Bills of Lading and other documents use in International Trade by Alexander Buabeng, Consultant for Maritime Legislation and Arrest of Ships, Judicial Sale and Distribution of Proceeds by Dr. Kofi Mbiah who is also a Consultant for Maritime Legislation.