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The tactically induced 'tugboat warfare' embarked upon by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) against Meridian Ports Services (MPS) enters day two with no sign of the authority relinquishing her posture.

Consequently, the state, as a whole, is losing thousands of dollars in revenue by way of pilotage, towage, mooring, Customs duties, Ghana Maritime Authority revenue, Ghana Shippers Authority charges, while freight forwarders are also losing their jobs.

The standoff, spearheaded by the Marine Operations and Engineering Department of the GPHA, has seen the port authority refusing vessels of any type entry to the Port of Tema since Tuesday.

It is basically aimed at compelling MPS to implement the November 12, 2019 Dubai Agreement, which seeds the allocation of 20 percentage container business at the Port of Tema to the GPHA.

According to a press release captioned Maritime and Dockworkers Union (MDU) and GPHA SEEK IMMEDIATE IMPLEMENTATION OF 20% CONTAINER AGREEMENT FOR GPHA, dated June 16, 2020, and signed by the General Secretary of the Maritime Dockworkers Union (MDU), Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, the non-compliance of the said agreement would affect the financial fortunes of the authority and lead to job losses of an estimated workforce of 1,400.

It states that the MDU and the local Union of GPHA are up in arms against MPS, as they demand the immediate implementation of the 20 percentage container deal signed on November 12, 2020 in Dubai.

It continued that they had decided to embark on the action to support their demand and unconditional implementation of the decision taken by the stakeholders of MPS.

That the campaign they embarked upon drew attention to the fact that the MPS Terminal 3 would eventually lead to huge job losses at the GPHA. That the report of the Inter Ministerial Committee set up by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government provides adequate information to confirm that the MPS Terminal 3 would create financial problems for the authority.

The deepest draft of Terminals 1 and 2 of the Tema Port stands at 11.5 metres, whilst that of Terminal 3, operated by MPS, is 16 metres. For some time now, all the containerised vessels are sent to Terminal 3, and that has raised concerns at the authority.

Independent investigations reportedly conducted by mariners at the GPHA, The Chronicle understands, suggested alleged fraud by captains of some vessels who fill the ballast tanks with more water at the Tema Port anchorage, so as to increase the draft of these ships, thereby disqualify them from the two terminals, 1 and 2. The only option now is to navigate to Terminal 3.

With the trend of vessels hitherto entering the main Tema Port terminals suddenly gaining deeper draft, which would not allow them to berth anymore, there is strong suspicion by the workers that MPS was in collusion to starve the GPHA and the state off revenue, hence the warfare.

Investigations The Chronicle conducted, however, disclosed that the decision of which terminal should harbour a vessel is mainly decided by the vessel owners, who consider a number of issues such as the efficiencies of shore handling and stevedoring equipment.

A question emerged as to whether the present shore handling equipment of the authority are efficient enough to compete with those at MPS.

Whether the about 22 licensed stevedore companies have the equipment on their own or continue to depend on those inherited which cannot be trusted, and also whether the regular maintenance of the authority's cranes and reach stackers has been regular.

It also came out that the stability of a vessel be she at sea, port, or the dry dock is determined by the Master, in this case, the Captain of the boat. MPS, the paper gathered, are purely terminal operators, and that the fight to allocate vessels to whichever wharf must rather be with the ship owners.

Meanwhile, The Chronicle picked signals to the effect that among the numerous vessels at the Tema Port anchorage is a Nigerian flag tanker, Motor Tanker (MT) KINGIS. The tanker was expected to enter the dock of PSC Tema Shipyard for dry docking after months of convincing to use our facility.

Stay tuned for the latest undiluted report on the tugboat warfare raging at the port.

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Publication:Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra, Ghana)
Date:Jun 25, 2020
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