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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 Zones, Free Ports, Free Airports, Free River and Lake Ports among others (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 the Assistant Commissioner – Free Zone and then to the Sector Commander for processing.
  • The Sector Commander where the free zone is located refers the approval letter to the Officer – In – Charge – Free Zone to begin the procedure.
  • The Officer – In – Charge – Free Zone creates a file for that company and assigns an officer from the Free Zone 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 Officer – In – Charge – Free Zone forwards the report to the sector commander for comments.
  • The report is then returned to the Officer – In – Charge – Free Zone for processing if approved.
  • The Officer – In – Charge – Free Zone assigns a Resident Officer to oversee the activities of the operator.

Officer – In – Charge – Free Zone 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 Free Zones 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 Ghana Free Zones Authority
  • 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 Resident Officer.

10.The Resident Officer receives the good and:

  • Checks 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 ICUMS
  • Makes an entry in the register

11.Where there is discrepancy the Resident Officer secures 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 following procedures:

Export Procedure

  1. The Free Zone operator submits a validated declaration with regime 10, CPC 19X00 to the Resident Officer for processing.
  2. The declaration is sent to the Resident Officer 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 Resident Officer supervises the loading of the consignment  on the declaration onto the conveyance and seals it with an e-trak device
  6. The Resident Officer releases the goods in ICUMS and refers the declaration to the Officer- In-Charge – Free Zones for further processing. If satisfied with the report, the officer 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 Ghana Free Zones Authority (GFZA) and Customs. This is to ensure that the legal and regulatory requirements are fulfilled prior to importation.

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

  1. The Free Zones operator submits an application to the Ghana Free Zones Authority for approval
  2. An application for Customs Classification and Valuation Report made in ICUMS with Ghana Free Zones Authority Form 9A signed and stamped by Ghana Free Zones Authority Compliance Officer and the Resident Officer
  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 Resident Officer to conduct physical examination on goods at the facility and supervise loading of goods onto the conveyance of the importer
  5. The Resident Officer makes appropriate remarks in 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 Ghana Free Zone Authority Form 9 to the RO
  2. The Resident Officer vets the declaration, supervises loading and seals the conveyance with tracking device and/or escort is assigned
  3. The Resident Officer makes input in the ICUMS and refers the declaration to Officer-In-Charge Free Zone
  4. The Officer-In-Charge, Free Zone refers the declaration to the Resident Officer at the receiving facility
  5. The Resident Officer at the receiving facility disarms the device and receives goods
  6. The receiving Resident Officer 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 Ghana Free Zones Authority 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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