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Business News of Thursday, 19 September 2019

Source: Eye on Port

GSA, GPHA engage stakeholders on proposed tariff increment

Players in the port clearance chain were urged to optimise the utilisation of the new terminal 3 Players in the port clearance chain were urged to optimise the utilisation of the new terminal 3

The Meridian Port Services (MPS) which is a private terminal, operating the new Terminal 3 of the Port of Tema has made a proposal for an upward adjustment of tariffs on container handling.

The private terminal operator is making the call for the increase in container handling charges due to what it considers to be a fulfilment of an agreement in a contract between MPS and GPHA.

As a result and in line with the usual practice of consultation and engagement of the Port Community before new charges and tariffs are introduced in the Port, Ghana Shippers Authority which has the legal mandate to negotiate port charges, partnered with the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority to put together a stakeholder engagement forum to make known MPS’ intention to increase container handling charges.

Addressing the forum, the Director General of GPHA, Michael Luguje said a possible adjustment of container handling charges has become necessary as a result of GPHA’s concession agreement with Meridian Port Service on the Terminal 3 project which has been opened for business since June, 2019.

“We needed to at least implement the contractual obligations and there was a need for us to begin to interact earlier than anticipated for us to have to come to an understanding of container handling tariffs so we could move forward with it,” he stated.

The CEO, of Ghana Shippers Authority, Benonita Bismarck who gave a report on her outfit’s engagement with stakeholders on the proposed tariff prior to the forum said that shippers and the Port Community have become very frustrated with the port clearance processes since the commencement of operations at the Terminal 3 in June.

“Container transfer from MPS to GJT has become burdensome thus resulting in the payment of additional demurrage and rents. Turnaround time of vessels at Terminal 3 has increased,” she noted.

She said the shipping community disapproves and finds it inappropriate the decision by MPS to charge partial unstuffing at the new Terminal 3 of the Port of Tema. She outlined some other challenges shippers face at the new Terminal which is leading to their frustration.

“MPS is currently charging for partial unstuffing on all reefer containers and shippers consider this as inappropriate. The examination bay has a capacity of only 60 containers therefore it takes one to three hours at the examination platform,” she added.

The Shippers’ Authority Boss concluded that the Ghanaian Shippers’ were of the opinion that, the emergence of the new Terminal 3 was to reduce cost and bring efficiency, therefore, anything of the contrary will not meet their expectations.

The CEO of Meridian Port Services, Mohammed Samara admitted that there have been some challenges at the terminal 3 operations and assured that they will be rectified.

“There was a week where we had to move some of our heavy equipment like RTGs and some cranes from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3. Few ships were affected specifically the ones that come on first come first serve which represent the lower number of the vessels or services that occur at MPS,” he disclosed.

He said an increment in the tariffs will not necessarily increase the cost of doing business in the port.

“The GPHA tariff in totality; stevedoring and shore handling represent about 2% of the cost of doing business. If we increase that by 10%, 20%, and 30% you still increasing the cost of doing business by 2%,” he indicated.

Meanwhile, the stakeholders in the port community vehemently opposed the proposed increment in the port charges as a result of what they describe as unbearable challenges that has characterised the operations at the new MPS terminal 3.

“It will be unfair to the end users if we are told within just a period of about 3, 4 or 6 months that we need to increase tariffs whereas your period is about 35 years,” Nana Barima Dr. Ofori Ameyaw 1, the Greater Accra Shipper Chairman lamented.

“I don’t know what was conceded in the contracts which said that immediately the contract get started the charges should also come in, it is highly premature,” a freight forwarder also opined.

The CEO of MPS, however, mounted some defence for the increment including the fact that, the tariff should be in dollars since other agencies like customs peg their duties in dollars and collect the cedi equivalent.

“There are other agencies that charge in US dollars. Whether it’s Maritime Authority, SOAAG, some clearing agents, some transporters they all express their quotation in dollars and take the cedi equivalent,” he indicated.

But the President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders charged the MPS boss to strive to ensure that services at the new terminal matches with the world class status bestowed the Terminal 3.

“What will be the positive story about that beautiful edifice, did we just build it for it to lead to the escalation of cost to the trader?” he asked.

Head of Legal, licenses and permits at MPS, Frank Ebow Brown assured the stakeholder community that MPS will guarantee the resolution of all operational difficulties at Terminal 3.

“We will continue to engage you because we believe that your vision for the Port of Tema in terms of efficiency, in terms of cost of doing business is the same as ours,” he stated.

Mohamed Samara, however, urged other players in the port clearance chain to optimise the utilisation of the new terminal 3.