25 July 2014

Ghana: Stop Atuabo Port - Maritime Dock Workers Warn Mahama

The Maritime and Dockworkers Union has rejected a deal which allows a private entity to build and operate a port in the country, and have called on President John Dramani Mahama not see the deal through.

The General Secretary of the Mine Dockers Union, Mr. Daniel Owusu, told The Chronicle that approving the deal to allow the construction of a private port was inconsistent with the current law and maritime development strategy as a country. He argued that it is only the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) that is authorised under section 5 (1) of the PNDC Law 160 of 1986 to plan, build, develop, manage, maintain, operate and control ports.

He expressed surprise at the action of Parliament to give the deal the green light, and, therefore, called on the President to "stop the deal. Parliament last week ratified a commercial agreement between the government of Ghana, Lonrho Ports Ghana Limited and Atuabo Free Port Company Limited for the facilitation of the Ghana Oil and Gas Free Port Project.

The agreement gives an exclusive right to Lonrho to operate the freeport with tax exemption for 25 years, with further rights for another 25-year extension, and provision of 2,000 acres of land by the Government of Ghana at the project site, which is strategically located opposite the Jubilee Fields, provision of security, immigration and customs by the government, tax free zone for companies operating in that part and for materials imported or in transit, and the development of the only Petroleum and Hyrdocarbons Logistics Port in the Western Region.

45 percent of the project shall be wholly Ghanaian-owned, with a 35 percent of initial capital contribution being made by Ghanaian institutions such as the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), GPHA, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), Volta River Authority (VRA), and State Insurance Company (SIC) to acquire equity in Atuabo Free Port Limited.

Additionally, the government of Ghana shall also be given a 10 percent stake of the initial share capital of the developer, at per value zero premium. But the Martime Workers Union says the deal is inimical to the development of the country, and poses, not only a security threat to the country, but a slap in the face of the core mandate of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority.

Earlier, the MDU petitioned Parliament not to legitimise the development of the Atuabo Port, stating that it would be a blatant violation of the laws of Ghana. The petitioners further noted: "In our view, the establishment of the port would undermine the security of the nation, and then create openings for illegal dealings in the country, including the possibility of drugs trade.

"We are aware that GPHA, which is a specialised institution with legal authority to develop and regulate ports, had opposed the development of the Atuabo Port by Lonrho, stating that it is not in the supreme interest of the nation, either in the short or long term to allow the development of the port by a private foreign company.

"GPHA has the capacity and the legal right to develop such facility in the Western Region as part of the port expansion programme of the Takoradi Port in the Western Region. The establishment of such an oil service port could be part of the local content of Ghana's oil industry to justify the use of part of our revenues for the project.

"We are, therefore, opposed to the terms of the agreement, which provides exclusive rights and tax exemptions for the operations of the Lonrho Ports Limited in Atuabo for 25 years, which is renewable for another 25 years."

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