Mary Hopkin sang “Temma Harbour” in 1970. I can still hear its beautiful chorus my father used to play, beginning at 0.38 seconds. Coconut trees still line the beach. The smell of fish still wafts from the sea, even if clearing your goods makes you forget that for a moment…
No, my son, Tolu, doesn’t work at the harbor. This is a requirement for entering. You must wear flashers in daylight, whether you are a worker or not. And you have to buy them, for 8 Ghana cedis each. We got them for 7 each, much to the indignation of the sellers. “Why did you have to bargain? Everyone pays 8 cedis!” My hired driver knew better to bring his own. While it is irritating, it creates business for people. My agent’s assistant wore hers, beaming. By day’s end, that smile had wilted to misery.
The worker who opened the container (see below) asked us to put money in his “collection” bucket. We declined. He did his job, anyway. See? Progress! Unfortunately, at every turn, people slipped ten cedi notes into the hands of clipboard wielding officials.
Car being freed from the container. It is always a good idea to make sure they put a platform to drive out the car. They get overwhelmed and try to cut corners, damaging tires.
This part was puzzling. After the cars got out, the 40 ft container was only a quarter full, yet they pulled out all the boxes. Here I am, three hours later, waiting for inspectors to come verify my shipment, the brown boxes. The other stuff belongs to other people. Twelve years ago, when I shipped, the inspection took place inside the container. Dumping everyone’s boxes outside creates chaos and congestion. Hopefully they will go back to inspecting in the container unless there isn’t enough room. I worried about rain, but the good weather held.
The inspection crew consisted of three sets of officials: Customs, National Security and BNI (Ghana’s equivalent of the FBI) Really? At each turn, I opened boxes and allowed full access, without paying a bribe. However, I discovered that getting the inspectors to do their job on time required slipping cedi notes into their palms. Agents have no choice, unless they want their client to spend more than one day at the harbor and put up with full-throat venting. I have a dream that this bullying practice of having to pay a wage earner to do his/her job will end. I have a dream.
I have a dream that it won’t take five hours after inspectors finish for the documents to be readied and printed so that one can leave the harbor before ten p.m., when one arrives at 8:40 a.m.
I have a dream that leaving the harbor won’t require going through four more check points within a space of fifty yards, where clipboard-wielding officials make a good show of frowning and taking notes while cedi notes slip under the clipboard. I have a dream that agents won’t pass this cost onto their clients, marked “sundry expenses” in the invoice.
I have a dream that the proposed changes coming to the ports will become a reality.
I believe my dreams will come true, so I’ll sing a song to Temma harbour, won’t climb a coconut tree but eat lots of it plus grilled fish on the beach.