By Gifty Arthur
Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, is raising serious concerns about the contract agreement that gave the Meridian Port Services (MPS), the authority to expand the Tema Port called new Terminal Three (T3)
According to the Importers and Exporters, the contract which has certain “exclusive rights”reserved for the company, if allowed to stand, will to some extent, collapse the port industry.
Among others, the Association is worried about the job and revenue loses that would be recorded as a result of the coming into being of the new project.
The tax holiday offered MPS is “good enough” to aid their operations, the group has said and implore the Akufo-Addo government to do something about the deal.
The Association’s President, Samson A. Asaki, who spoke exclusively to The Herald, said there are three important issues they want the government to address.
He said it would be important if government took the contract back to Parliament for amendment before the first phase of the expansion becomes operational in July, this year.
First, the Association says it is totally against MPS doing stevedoring work, instead of Ghanaians.
It insists stevedoring job, which has always been the business for Ghanaians, must not change.Shore handing services,said to be a very “capital intensive”business enterprise,can be left for MPS, but insists they will not consent to government permittingforeignersto take stevedoring work at the expense of Ghanaian companies.
“Per the new contract, MPS says that they will do the stevedoring on their own, they will not allow any stevedoring company tocome to their premises and do stevedoring work. There is another job called shore handing, it can be done by private people, it’s also charged in Forex, MPS says they will not allow any private shore handing person to come and do the work there. So meaning we are taking the whole job from Ghanaians?”
He charged “So we are saying that stevedoring work that MPS wants to take, we will not allow,we have Ghanaian companies that can do the work. Why can’t they allow that stevedoring work to be done by Ghanaians, whether it’s in their yard or GPHA territory?
Why are they saying that they will not allow anybody to come and work in their yard?Government should rather tell them that, that work should be given to Ghanaians so that the moneys stay here”.
Secondly, the Association disagrees with the fact that per the agreement MPS has the sole right to review tariffs which hitherto was the responsibility of the Ghana Ports and Habours Authority (GPHA).
According to them, GPHA over the years reviewed tariffs every two years but before they even went ahead, stakeholders were somewhat consulted but with the new arrangement, MPS will be reviewing tariffs at will depending on how the Cedi is performing. He maintained that this has the potential to bring untold difficulties to stakeholders and Ghanaians.
“Now,you are giving all these exclusive rights to a private man! MPS wants to do it every month as and when the Cedi depreciates so that they can stay afloat. So, we are saying that they should not do tariff on their own,GPHA should do tariff negotiation and ask them to implement. If it’s left to MPS,it’s a private investor, they do not need us, whether we are doing well or not they don’t care”.
Lastly, this paper was informed that MPS is resisting attempts by Ghanalink to fix it scanners at the new port because according to them, the contract gives them the exclusive right to use their kind of scanners. This too, the Association is objecting to because according to them, there is already a law in place which gives Ghanalink the permission to fix their scanners.
“Because there is a contract that says that that by sea, by air, by road or whatever this should be done so how come they are saying that they will not allow them to fix it and that they have theirs designed to their to specification?
Tell Ghanalink that, this is the type of scanners we want you to place there. We want the government to make sure that, Ghanalink goes and fix the scanners there. We are saying that those jobs should be given to Ghanaians. If we don’t do that, we are going to sell our birthright to these people.
Come July, all ships that load containers to Ghana, will go to that place and if you look at the statistics of Ghana’s imports, the container import is more. And so all those containers, will be going to MPS so the over 20 stevedoring companies and their workers will have to go home because one person has come to take all to jobs”.
The group said government and Ghanaians are going to bear the consequences of this contract if it is allowed to hold.
Mr Asaki told The Herald that thousands of Ghanaian workers are going to lose their job, government revenue is going to dwindle, while moneys made by MPS, will be repatriated out of the shores of Ghana.
“They are selfish, those moneys will not stay in Ghana, is going to be capital flight. Already, one dollar is five Cedis, they are going to put pressure on our currency, all these services they are going to render, they are going to repatriate them but if the work is reserved for Ghanaians the money will stay here,it will cushion our currency.
Suggesting remedy for what they say is an obvious bad law passed by Parliament, the Association challenged government to fall on the local content law passed few years ago for the petroleum sector when it goes to Parliament so that Ghanaians can remain in business after workstarts later this year.
“So our beef is that if you go to the oil industry, there is what we call local content law that takes care of certain services. When it comes to the port sector, we don’t have such a law but we want them to use the one for the oil sector”.