The Tema Regional Command of the Ghana Immigration Service has engaged vessel owners and agents at the Tema Port on immigration handling and procedures.
The objective of the meeting was to bridge the information gap between the GIS and the vessel owners and ship agents, who they consider as key stakeholders in their operations.
Personnel of the GIS, the ship owners and agents assessed challenges encountered by shippers regarding the law on immigration, as well as residence and employment of foreign nationals in Ghana.
The Tema Deputy Regional Commander of the GIS, Chief Superintendent of Immigration Martin Dzordzie, reminded the participants that per Section One of the Immigration Act, 2000 (ACT 573), “a person in charge of a sea-going vessel, aircraft or vehicle arriving at any port or place in Ghana shall not permit a passenger who embarked outside Ghana to disembark until disembarkation has been authorised by the immigration officer”.
He emphasised that appearance before an immigration officer on entering Ghana was very important and urged the agents to ensure that any passenger or crew member embarking a vessel appeared before an immigration officer and completed the prescribed form for his or her passport to be endorsed.
Chief Superintendent Dzordzie further indicated that agents must also ensure that members of crew of a vessel which was in Ghana to work applied for and were given the necessary work permit before they commenced work, stressing that a breach of that would result in the application of appropriate sanctions by the Immigration Service.
The deputy regional commander reiterated the dangers associated with stowaway and cautioned vessel owners and agents to conduct due diligence to avoid incidents of stowaways conniving with crew members to board a vessel with the aim of travelling to other countries, stressing that such acts had international implications for Ghana.
According to him, in a situation where a master of a vessel abets or permits any person to disembark from the vessel or leave the confines of the port without authorisation, that person commits an offence and is liable to pay the a penalty of $5,000, stressing that failure to pay the penalty within 14 days is liable on summary conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.
“The burden is on you to bring this provision of the law to the attention of your partners outside to avoid falling foul of the law,” he said.
Mr Alexander Odoom, the President of the Tema Berthing Meetings Association, whose main activities at the port are to plan the vessels coming into the port and sail them out of the port after the cargoes are discharged, commended the Tema Regional Command of the GIS for organising the meeting.
He said ship agents faced challenges, including unnecessary delays and bureaucratic bottlenecks of immigration handling procedures and processes, and urged the GIS to enhance its processes to ensure that vessel turnaround time in the port improved tremendously.
A Maritime Analyst and Intelligence Officer at the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Sheik Labaran Salifu Barry, commended the GIS for the collaboration with the stakeholders, emphasising that such collaboration had enhanced port security.
He disclosed that stowaway cases in the country had for the past two years reduced drastically, stressing that persons detected to have stowed away on vessels originating from other countries were disembarked at the Tema Port.