The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union (MDU) has raised a red flag over alleged fraudulent practices and irregularities in implementation of the ongoing Tema Port Expansion project of Meridian Port Services (MPS).
In an interview with Today, the General Secretary of MDU, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) which was then in opposition at the time strongly opposed some sections of the agreement “so it is not out of place that the MDU is calling on the NPP government to renegotiate the concession agreement”
The concerns of the council were stated in a resolution of the 63rd season of the NEC of the MDU held at the Hospitality Centre in Tema, Accra, recently.
The meeting discussed the effects of the concession agreement of the new container terminal of the Meridian Port Services (MPS) on GPHA and other operators in the port in terms of job losses.
The meeting further discussed the policies of government that had resulted in increasing job losses in the maritime industry as well as casualisation of permanent jobs in the ports.
The Meridian Port Service (MPS) agreement was approved by Parliament in June 2016 under the Mahama government.
The council expressed the view that the project was a good one with a bad concession agreement.
The council was of the strong opinion that the process of the development of the concession agreement was flawed because the contract did not go through a competitive bidding due to political interference before it was presented to Parliament resulting in the development of a concession agreement for the building of a new semi-automated world class container terminal which had the potential to destroy other maritime businesses and undermine national interest.
In the light of the above, the MDU expressed deep worry that when the new container terminal of MPS becomes operational in June 2019, Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) would lose much of its container-related businesses which would result in loss of huge revenues from reduced royalty payment, rents, port dues, berth occupancy among others.
It further expressed worry that the implementation of the agreement in its current form would lead to a reduction of GPHA’s container related businesses from $105 million to $30 million with a resultant loss of over 1,400 jobs for GPHA alone.
According to the MDU, the implementation of the agreement in its current form would lead to the demise of businesses of stevedore companies, Inland Container Depots (ICDs), Ghana Dock Labour Company (GDLC), terminal operating companies among others.
These, the resolution added, could lead to massive job losses in the maritime sector.
The council noted that since the operations of the new container terminal would be a semi-automated one, there would not be substantial job creation to absorb the huge job losses for GPHA and other affected companies.
The council, therefore, resolved that the central government should, as a matter of urgency, renegotiate the concession agreement of the new container terminal of MPS to ensure the protection of national interest, jobs, sustenance of businesses of GPHA, local stevedore companies, existing terminal operators and other local operators.
It suggested that the government should renegotiate the concession agreement to protect jobs of GPHA workers and other operators in the port before the commencement of business at the new terminal in June 2019 because it will be very difficult to review the concession agreement when the container terminal becomes operational.
On the operational problems of Stevedore companies, the council recalled that in its resolution of 2017, it complained that government’s policy to increase the registration of Stevedore companies from 7 to 21 (about 300% increase) when the cargo volumes had only increased by about 10% in 2017, had resulted in operational and financial problems of Stevedore companies.
The council noted that the policy of government to increase the number of stevedore companies had worsened the operational and financial problems of the stevedore companies resulting in massive redundancies of employees of stevedore companies and casualisation of permanent jobs.
The council was disappointed that government had not taken any measures to address the problem which had led to loss of jobs in the maritime industry.
The council was of the view that the situation would worsen if government did not take immediate action to address the problem.
The council recommended to the government to impress upon the GPHA to place a moratorium on the granting of licenses for stevedore, shore handling and labour supply operations in the ports.
It stated that government should set up a committee comprising government, port authority and Maritime and Dockworkers Union to investigate the current happenings in the stevedore, shore handling and labour supply operations in the ports and the effects of such liberal policies on the efficiencies of the ports as well as job losses.
The committee, the council further suggested, should also determine the optimal number of shore handling, stevedore and labour supply companies required to operate at the ports giving the volumes of cargo and an appropriate rotational and shift systems to accommodate further capacity of stevedore, shore handling and labour supply operations.