Using the recent Beirut port disaster as a wake-up call, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) is currently engaging the ministries of Transport and Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to expedite approvals for the clearance of dangerous cargo at the country’s ports.
A shipper importing any dangerous or hazardous chemical currently requires a number of permits to get the goods discharged at the port but will need a special permit solely issued by the Interior Minister to move it out of the port to the final destination.
What this means is that as long as the minister remains unavailable to sign and grant that permit, the dangerous goods will still be stuck at the port, posing serious threat to activities within the port community.
“We want to look at this situation to see how we can get these institutions closer and to review their processes. The port authority and other stakeholders have tried several times to see if we can vary the process but it has been on deaf ears and no one is paying heed to us,” Mr. Garvin Amarvie, GPHA’s Corporate Monitoring Manager, said.
But whilst the discussion goes on, he has proposed the need for clearly defined roles and responsibilities for the tracking, handling and carting of dangerous goods that are shipped through the ports.
“There is the need for close monitoring and random inspection of parties working with dangerous goods and other combustible materials within our port area, whilst enforcing institutional disaster and emergency drills,” he said at a CILT Ghana Tema Section Webinar on the theme “Lessons from Beirut: Reviewing preparedness of Ghana’s ports.”
According to him, the authority, working industry actors, has drafted a working document for the treatment of dangerous and hazardous cargo within the port enclave but adds that those regulations and guidelines are currently undergoing a review.
“The port has set up a committee to study and audit activities in relation to dangerous goods, review the handling procedure as well as advise on the re-zoning of discharging and storage areas for such cargo. By next week, that reviewed document will be out for broader stakeholder consultations,” he noted.
On 4 August 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, exploded, causing at least 200 deaths, US$10–15 billion in property damage, and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless.