The Meridian Port Services Limited (MPS) is to fully take over the loading and unloading of cargo vessels when the expansion works at the Tema Port is completed in June next year.
Again, the port service operator is to undertake key activities such as shore handling and handling of all containerised vessels.
This move is to compel some 20 registered stevedore companies and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) to manage general cargo vessels and the ones that carry vehicles at terminal one of the country’s biggest port.
“The private stevedore companies will not be permitted to operate at the port after the expansion” the General Manager, Marketing and Corporate Affairs of GPHA, Mrs Esther Gyebi-Donkor, said in an interview with the GRAPHIC BUSINESS at Tema.
She explained that the exclusivity fell in line with GPHA’s quest to ensure that the new facility was efficiently managed to be globally competitive.
The situation, she said, had been the same even with the old contract between MPS and GPHA at the terminal two.
She explained that these private companies were licensed purposely to operate at the GPHA-managed terminal (terminal one) to handle general cargo.
According to her, with the kind of facilities that would be built and installed at the port expansion, it would be better for the terminal operator to handle the stevedore operations.
Reason being, the loading and unloading of cargo vessels were major activities in the management of a terminal at a seaport in terms of efficiency.
“So, if the management of a port terminal is given to an entity to operate, it will not be appropriate to deny that entity the right to undertake stevedoring activity and expect efficiency,” she said.
She noted that presently, MPS undertakes stevedore activity at the terminal two and that arrangement would be maintained at the new expansion when completed.
Giving further details, Mrs Gyebi-Donkor said the GPHA pilots would continue to undertake their operations of moving the vessels to the various terminals, including expansion for the appropriate entities to discharge when the expansion was completed.
“The current legal contract between GPHA and MPS states that any vessel that carries containers over 50 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) must go to terminal two.
But to ensure efficiency, we move some of the vessels to the terminal one when the MPS-managed terminal is occupied, although that is against the contract,”she observed.
She stated that the GPHA had envisaged that when the expansion was completed, the terminal one would be free to handle general cargo vessels and vessels that carried vehicles.
She added that the capability of MPS to efficiently manage the expansion when completed was not in doubt as past record of the port service operator at the terminal two showed positive results.
MPS operations so far
MPS is executing the US$1.5 billion port expansion project. The project involves the building of a 3.5 kilometre breakwater and an access channel harbouring16 metres deep-water berths to accommodate larger vessels with sophisticated port handling equipment.
The Tema Port Expansion is designed to provide a world-class harbour infrastructure for the next 100 years.
It has so far reclaimed about 127 hectares of land from the sea.
Under the arrangement, the MPS is expected to complete two berths by June next year for operations to start and continue constructions on the next two berths in 2020.
When contacted, the Manager, Legal, License and Permits of MPS, Mr Frank Ebo Brown, said his outfit was committed to completing the project as scheduled.
He noted that once the first part of the project was completed, MPS would start what he described as soft operations, as some seven ship to shore cranes, and 20 rubber tired gantry cranes had already been ordered .
In addition, he said, his outfit had imported nine rubber tired gantry cranes and five ship to shore cranes.
“We are bringing modern systems and facilities to improve our operations in the area of loading and unloading of cargo vessels at the new expansion when completed.”
But, some industry players have raised concerns about the exclusivity given to the MPS to undertake stevedore activities, handling containerised cargo and also undertaking shore handling.
The Executive Secretary of the Importers and Exporters Association (IEA), Mr Samson Awingobit Asaki, called on the government to review the contract that bound MPS and GPHA from all the exclusivities.
That, he said, was necessary to help encourage local participation in the maritime industry.
“We are urging the government to relook at the contract to enforce clauses that will favour the country rather than giving our destiny to one entity,” he added.
The workers union of GPHA has, however, threatened to halt operations at the expansion site if the government does not review the contract of MPS.— GB