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Free Zones

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Free Zones

Free Zone means an area or building declared as a Free Zone by publication in the Commercial and Industrial Bulletin. It includes Single Factory Zone, Free Ports, Free Airports, Free River and Lake Port Free Zones Act 1995, 504. Unlike other Suspense Regimes, the free zones operations do not require the execution of a bond. A Free Zone (FZ) although located within the territory of Ghana, is for Customs and Tax purposes, legally treated as a “foreign territory”. Therefore, all transactions in a Free Zone are deemed to have been carried out in a foreign land and are subject only to the national laws of free zone operations. However free zone companies remain subject to all other (non-customs) national laws of Ghana.This means goods moving from in and out of the free zone are treated for Customs purposes as similar to other suspense regimes. Consequently, duties and taxes are not payable unless the goods are moved from the Free Zones into Home Consumption.The Ghana Free Zones program is designed to promote processing and manufacturing of goods through the establishment of Export Processing Zones (EPZ). These are to encourage development of commercial and service activities, offering a conducive business environment to produce at minimum cost for export. Free Zones companies are legally permitted to sell up to 30% of their products in Ghana but only after they have completed the correct declaration procedures which are broadly similar to declaration of import.

There are three types of Free Zones:

  • Industrial Free Zone for the importation of raw materials for manufacturing of products for exportation.
  • Commercial Free Zone for the importation of general goods for subsequent sorting, mixing, re-bagging, re-labeling or further processing into finished products for re-export.
  • Service Free Zone which provides services to the Free Zone operators and also companies operating outside the Free Zones.

Customs Procedures for Free Zones Documentation

Free Zones are directly controlled and licensed by the Ghana Free Zones Authority which undertakes the initial approval before customs procedures begin.

  • Customs involvement begins when the Ghana Free Zones Authority notifies the Commissioner-General with an approval letter of a newly licensed operator.
  • The application is then referred to Assistant Commissioner (AC) Free Zone and then to the Sector Commander for processing
  • The sector Commander where the fee zone is located refers the approval letter to the Officer – In – Charge (OIC) FZ to begin the procedure
  • The OIC FZ creates a file for that company and assigns an officer from the FZ to conduct a survey on the location and status
  • The officer submits a report on the company together with Certificate to commence business, Certificate of Incorporation, Statement of Composition if applicable and other relevant documents
  • The OIC FZ forwards the report to the sector commander for comments
  • The report is then returned to the OIC FZ for processing if approved
  • The OIC FZ assigns a Resident officer (RO) to oversee the activities of the operator

OIC FZ submits  the name of the assigned officer to be entered onto ICUMS

Free Zone Import Procedures

1.The declarant submits  an E-Bill of Entry in ICUMS

2.The declarant submits  a validated Declaration to the FZ Office together with other relevant documents (i.e. Invoice, Bill of Lading, Packing List, Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA) Form 9)

3.The Free Zone office will ensure:

  • The operator is a licensed Free zone Enterprise
  • The regime and CPC declared is correct
  • All relevant exemptions from duty have been approved by the GFZA
  • Compliance Office checks have been completed
  • An examination officer has been assigned
  • Goods on which exemption is claimed are in line with the company’s operations.

4.If the free zone office confirms that there is no discrepancy, the declaration is referred to the Examination officer to secure the consignment with an e-trak device before referring to Preventive for further processing.

  • The free zone office issues a written note attached to the hard copy of the declaration to the E-trak office for the e-trak device. This is necessary because the e-trak office is yet to be integrated into the ICUMS.

5.If the declaration is queried the declarant makes the necessary correction(s) and reports back.

6.For high risk goods an escort may be required in addition to the E-tracking device

7.At the freight station the Examination officer conducts an external examination by confirming the container number and the seal number.

8.The Examination Office supervises the sealing of the container and refers the consignment to the Preventive Unit.

9.The Preventive Officer conducts an external examination and notifies the RO.

10.The RO receives the good and:

  • Check the container and seal number to confirm that they are intact and correct.
  • Disarms the tracking device and supervises the goods being unstuffed for examination.
  • Updates the ICUMS
  • Makes an entry in the register

11.Where there is discrepancy the RO ensures the goods and escalates the matter to a supervisor.

Removal of goods from a Free Zone facility

Goods can only be removed from the Free Zones facility under the three (3) following procedures:

Export Procedure

  1. The FZ operator submits a validated declaration with regime 10, CPC 19X00 to the RO for processing.
  2. The declaration is sent to the RO for authentication of attached documents
  3. The RO raises a landing account on the goods with the following information; 
    • Exporter and importers address
    • Quantity and importers address
    • Exit point
    • Electronic tracking device number
  4. If an Escort is assigned, then the name and details of the officer must be included in the record of examination.
  5. The RO supervises the loading of the consignment  on the declaration onto the conveyance and seals it with an E-trak device
  6. The RO releases the goods in ICUMS and refers the declaration to the OIC FZ for further processing OIC FZ if satisfied with the report refers the declaration to the recipient station/exit point for further processing to the final destination.
  7. The exit point, the Station Commander assigns an officer to confirm details on the conveyance
  8. The officer makes input in ICUMS and releases the goods to the importing country

Local Sales (Home Consumption)

Sales of finished products and valuable waste to the local market should be approved by GFZA and Customs. This is to ensure that the legal and regulatory requirements are fulfilled prior to importation.

Local sales from FZ into Ghana are considered as imports and therefore dutiable

  1. The Free Zones operator submits an application to the GFZA for approval
  2. An application for (Full meaning of CCVR) IS made in ICUMS with GFZA Form 9A signed and stamped by GFZA Compliance Officer and the RO
  3. The free zones operator processes the declaration with regime 40, CPC 49D01 and makes payment on the appropriate duties and taxes
  4. The Declaration is referred to the RO to conduct physical examination on goods at the facility and supervise loading of goods onto the conveyance of the importer
  5. The RO makes appropriate remarks in the ICUMS and updates the register.

Transfers between Free Zones

To monitor and control transfer of goods from one Free zone to another, the following procedure is followed;

  1. The Free Zone operator submits validated declaration with regime 99 with appropriate CPC and GFZA Form 9 to the RO
  2. The RO vets the declaration, supervises loading and seals the conveyance with tracking device and/or escort is assigned
  3. The RO makes input in the ICUMS and refers the declaration to OIC FZ
  4. The OIC FZ refers the declaration to the RO at the receiving facility
  5. The RO at the receiving facility disarms the device and receives goods
  6. The receiving RO updates the ICUMS

Destruction of Goods

Expired, damaged and un-recyclable waste materials are destroyed under the supervision of customs and other relevant Agencies and a destruction certificate is then issued.

  1. The operator sends a written application to the sector commander (SC) and GFZA for approval.
  2. The application is referred for investigation
  3. If the application is approved;
    • The operator arranges for logistics and sets a specific date for the destruction
    • The goods are destroyed under the supervision of customs and any other relevant agencies
    • A Destruction Certificate is issued after completion.


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