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Maritime workers seek President’s intervention in MPS’ concession agreement

By: Maclean Kwofi
Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, General Secretary, Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union
Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, General Secretary, Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union

Maritime and dockworkers have made a passionate appeal to the President to intervene in the concession agreement to ensure that the Terminal Three of the Tema Port is reviewed before the project becomes operational by the end of June this year.

They contend that the implementation of the agreement in its current form will have a negative impact on the operations of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), private firms and lead to job losses.

This was contained in a special letter signed by the General Secretary of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union (MDU), Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng and addressed to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo a couple of weeks ago.

Need for renegotiation
 They indicated that the renegotiation of the deal was necessary to protect jobs, local businesses and the interest of the country.

“The current structure of the concession agreement would result in the new terminal operating more as an enclave with minimal economic benefits to Ghana and increased socio-economic burden in the form of collapse of local businesses and massive job losses.

“This is contrary to the claim that the MPS Tema Port Expansion Project will yield massive economic and social benefits to our nation.

“We have no doubt that the renegotiation of the MPS agreement would go a long way to support the achievement of the government’s vision of Ghana beyond aid and we count on your commitment in this regard,” the petition letter read.

It added: “The deed of the amendment GPHA grants the right to MPS to adjust the tariff based on a predetermined formula in the deed of amendment without having to obtain approval from GPHA which is the regulator.

This waters down the regulatory function of the GPHA in the setting of tariff for port operators and undermines our national laws.”

The TUC, in its 2018 State of the Nation Address, had equally signalled the weaknesses in the MPS concession agreement and the urgent need for its renegotiation.
They warned that the contract in its current form would translate into massive job losses in the maritime industry which is already grappling with redundancies as a result of registering many stevedore and shore handling companies.

Maritime companies
According to the MDU, some maritime companies had indicated their intentions to the MDU to declare some workers redundant when the MPS project becomes operational in June 2019.

These issues, the union said, had created anxiety among maritime employees, especially workers of GPHA, Terminal Operators, Ghana Dock Labour Company (GDLC), stevedore companies, Inland Container Terminal (ICDs) and so on.

The Tema Port expansion project has already benefited from a waiver of tax/import duties of US$832 million even though the project cost has been reevaluated from the initial US$1.5billion to currently US$ 1.1 billion.

The MDU said “with the level of tax waiver of US$832 million and an investment cost of US$1.1 billion, we can safely conclude that the project has been funded by Ghanaian tax payers and that is enough justification for the renegotiation of the concession agreement to protect jobs and businesses of Ghanaians.”

There are indications that the GPHA alone may sack about 1,400 workers in 2019 as a result of the MPS monopoly at the Tema Port.

Mr Owusu-Koranteng indicated that if the contract was not reviewed and MPS commenced operation in the new terminal in June 2019, the government and GPHA would surely lose millions of US dollars in revenue, in addition to over US$800 million granted to MPS in tax concessions.

“We are, therefore, not only concerned about the massive job losses that would result from the operations of the new container terminal by MPS but also the huge losses in government revenue.”

Ministerial committee report
The union observed that it was aware that the government’s ministerial committee setup to look into the concession agreement and prescribe a solution had already submitted its report.

The MDU said it was also aware that the report of the committee suggested that the GPHA-MPH/MPS concession arrangements in its current form grossly disadvantaged GPHA and posed a substantial financial risk, social and economic loss to the government and the people of Ghana as well as the threat of a monopolistic control of Ghana’s premier port.

“It further brought to fore major issues bordering on apparent misrepresentation, accountability, bad corporate governance practices, truncation of the international competitive procurement process and political influence among others.

“It recommended that the proposed review/renegotiation exercise should at the minimum, aim to achieve the intended strategic and development goals contemplated under the Port Master Plan.”