Fallout from Dubai crunch meeting: GPHA to handle 20% of cargo

The management of Meridian Port Services (MPS), the concessionaire for the Tema Port, has agreed to cede 20 per cent retention of container cargo volumes to the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

This is to enable the port authority to have a minimum level of business to forestall the job losses that would have come with the total control of handling and other port activities in the hands of the concessionaire.

As a compromise, a proposal to increase port tariffs which was rejected by the port community in September this year will be granted the developer to enable it to recoup the investment cost within the agreed period, sources close to discussions between a government delegation and representatives of shareholders of the MPS consortium have told the Daily Graphic.

The sources said the agreement came after a crunch meeting between the government delegation and representatives of shareholders of the MPS consortium in Dubai last Tuesday.

The government side was represented by the Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah; the Board Chairman of the GPHA, Mr Peter Mac-Manu; the Director-General of the port authority, Mr Michael Luguje, and the Director of the Tema Port, Ms Sandra Opoku.

The sources said the investor was represented at the negotiations by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the MPS, Mr Mohammed Samara, and his management team; Meridian Port Holdings (MPH), Bollore Logistics and APM Terminals.

“The GPHA has finally got the 20 per cent container cargo handling request. Paperwork will be done by the middle of next week for final discussions, approval and signature by the close of the month or in December and we hope labour agitation will cease,” they said.

Positive step

Mr Mac-Manu confirmed the meeting to the Daily Graphic and indicated that the negotiations were not the first, as there had been a previous renegotiation of GPHA’s share of 30 per cent in the project, which he said was shrunk to 15 per cent when the project came alive.

However, he said, the Dubai meeting was taken seriously by both parties, considering that the project remained a viable investment, adding: “All parties agreed that there was the need to get on with the partnership in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.”

He said following the deliberations, the MPH agreed to take a serious view of the GPHA’s request for 20 per cent container handling, and “for us at the GPHA, it is a positive step”.

Mr Mac-Manu said pending the decision of the leadership of the MPS shareholders, the partners would work out all issues for final approval within a month.

Cease industrial actions

A memo from the Office of the Director-General of the GPHA to its workers, a copy of which the Daily Graphic has seen, entreated the workers’ union to remain calm and avoid any agitation, while the authority awaited the outcome of the November 12 meeting in Dubai.

“As you are already aware, much as the pace has been slow, the negotiations have made significant progress and the next meeting, which should be the last, will be held in Dubai on 12th November to agree and sign off the retention of 20 per cent of container volumes for the GPHA to handle at Terminal 2 or any other of our facilities, as may be appropriate,” it indicated.

It pointed out that strikes, no matter how peaceful, might result in loss of man-hours, which would translate into revenue losses, “revenue we badly need, especially in these present times”.

Union agitation

The partners of the 35-year concession agreement had been negotiating some terms of the agreement which granted exclusive rights to the MPS as the financier and developer of the terminal to handle container vessels carrying 200 Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) or more.

Similarly, the clauses contained in the Deed of Amendment (DoA) on the project further gives the MPS the right to retain port dues, which hitherto were collected by the port authority, parts of the DoA the Daily Graphic has sighted indicated.

Widespread agitation by the Maritime and Dockworkers Union (MDU) was backed by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The TUC, in its input into the 2020 Budget and Economic Policy of the government, made a strong case for the government to take steps to review the agreement, which it said was similar to the Power Distribution Services (PDS) contract which was cancelled recently.

Port officials

Officials of the GPHA were, however, tight-lipped over the latest developments when the Daily Graphic asked for their comments.

The General Secretary of the MDU, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, however, said the union remained hopeful that the meeting on the MPS concession would peacefully assuage any tendencies for agitation and campaigns against the MPS Terminal Three concession agreement.

“We want to encourage the shareholders of MPS, especially Meridian Port Holdings, to take decisions that will create a peaceful environment for the MPS,” he stated.

He said the TUC, the MDU and workers of the GPHA would be very disappointed if the shareholders of MPS did not grant the modest demands of the GPHA to handle 20 per cent of the eligible vessels defined as vessels carrying more than 200 TEUs.