Management of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) has commenced the implementation of the 20 per cent retention of container cargo agreement it entered into with the shareholders of Meridian Ports Services (MPS) in November 2019.
In a memo dated 14th April, 2020 and signed by the Director-General of GPHA, Michael Luguje to all container shipping lines, it said effective from Monday April 20, all container vessels coming to the Tema Port with draught of 11.5 meters or less will be berthed and worked on by GPHA at its facilities in Terminal 1 and 2 respectively.
“Agents of container vessels that fall within this water draught category are therefore kindly requested to take due note that GPHA through the Harbour Master’s Office, shall communicate to each agency at least one week prior to the ETA of their container vessel, to enable them know if the vessel will be berthed and worked on by GPHA or MPS,’’ the memo added.
While appreciating that container handling facilities at Terminal 3 and 4 are not of the same standard, GPHA promised to ensure service provided to container shipping lines meets the minimum standards.
According to the GPHA, the delay in the implementation of the agreement coupled with coronavirus pandemic has adversely affected its revenue mobilization hence the need to activate the agreement.
It would be recalled that the Trades Union Congress, members of maritime unions who are members of the Maritime and Dockworkers Union ( MDU) and the workers of GPHA engaged in agitations in 2019 to demand 20% container business for GPHA as part of the larger campaign for the review of the agreement of the Meridian Port Services ( MPS ) Terminal 3 which granted the handling of almost all container business to MPS during the Mahama administration in 2015.
In November 2019, the shareholders of MPS took a decision in a meeting in Dubai to grant 20% Container business to GPHA but the decision taken in Dubai by the shareholders has not been implemented because MPS has taken a position which would turn the 20% container business to GPHA into a short term palliative review that would not boost GPHA’s finances in the short and long term .
Whilst MPS continues to benefit financially from the Terminal 3 agreement, GPHA is losing huge revenues everyday thus creating financial and operational problems for GPHA.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected the maritime industry negatively and it has become an urgent issue for GPHA to seek immediate implementation of the “Dubai Agreement’’ as a necessary step for its survival.
The TUC, Maritime and Dockworkers Union (MDU) and the workers of GPHA are in full support of the decision for GPHA to handle 20% container business.
Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, the General Secretary of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union mentioned that government should not allow MPS to take over the handling of Reefer Containers from GPHA because the handling of Reefer Containers is not part of the MPS agreement.
Moreover, GPHA has invested in the building of a Reefer Terminal and had been handling Reefer Containers long before the MPS Agreement. The handling of all Container Cargo and Reefer Containers for Tema Port by MPS has deprived GPHA of huge revenues and the effects have started manifesting on GPHA.
“It is time for government to support GPHA to take back the handling of the Reefer Terminal and ensure the immediate implementation of the handling of 20% Container Business by GPHA. It would be in the interest of Ghana and GPHA to do so,” Owusu-Koranteng added.