After three days of persistent agitations, workers of Tema Port have finally called off their industrial action and allowed vessels in anchorage to berth at the port.
This was as a result of a directive by the Office of the President, instructing the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) to reverse its decision to take away refrigerated (reefer) cargo containers from being handled by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).
Following the intervention by the President, therefore, the workers who had restrained six vessels in anchorage from berthing at any terminal at the Tema Port, yesterday gave the Marine Operations Unit at the port the go-ahead to pilot the vessels to their designated terminals.
Similarly, some containerised vessels, namely Maersk Casablanca, Eleni T, and MCS Oriane, which arrived on anchorage last Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, would also be berthed at the Meridian Port Services (MPS) facility.
The leadership of the Maritime and Dock Workers Union (MDU) and the workers unions of the GPHA last Wednesday gave an ultimatum to the government to reverse the decision on the reefer cargo handling as well as the implementation of a 20 per cent container handling quota in line with revised arrangements on the concession agreement between the GPHA and a private developer, MPS, for the development and operations of the new multipurpose port terminal.
The group was not happy over what it claimed was the GRA’s continuous insistence for Reefer imports to be handled at the third party terminal when it was exclusive of the 35-year concession agreement between the GPHA and the MPS.
The directive, dated June 17, 2020, and signed by the Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante, asked the acting Commissioner-General of the GRA, Mr Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah, to as a matter of urgency, permit the transfer of all reefer cargos from Terminal Three to the GPHA Reefer Yard where duties and taxes would be paid before being delivered to the consignees.
Subsequent to the directive, the Minister of Transport, Mr Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, also in a separate letter, dated June 17, 2020, to the DG of GPHA, copied to the worker unions and the Chief Executive Officer of MPS, said the GRA was to enforce the new directive by the end of June in connection with reefer cargos.
“Government’s position to handle 20 per cent of containerised cargo during the exclusive period of 10 years has not changed and the authority should go ahead with the leasing of Marine Harbour cranes to enable it to effectively handle the containers,” it said.
The Director-General of GPHA, Mr Michael Luguje, who confirmed the authenticity of the two letters to the protesting union leaders, also convinced the group, which had been keeping vigil at the Marine Unit since Tuesday, to eventually call off their strike and allow vessel handling activities to begin.
The strike is said to have caused some revenue losses in the area of port dues, pilotage and towage, as well as stevedoring activities over the past three days, even though workers were tight-lipped.
Mr Luguje said the management of GPHA had also reached out to MPS to impress on it to engage its own Board of Directors on the revised positions.
“I am also expecting the MPS to bring out its formula on the 20 per cent sharing of container cargo by the close of the day, so you (union leaders) don’t need to continue to keep vigil here. Rather, I will urge you to break off and resume work, while management works out the necessary details on the new directives,” Mr Luguje emphasised.
The General Secretary of MDU, Mr Daniel Owusu-Koranteng, explained that their decision to suspend the strike was also as a result of the commencement of the quota and the handling of reefer cargos.
“With the evidences available to us, if I lead you to ignore the letters in which the President has expressed the commitment to see to the resolution of the impasse, then we may not be doing ourselves any good,” Mr Owusu-Koranteng said.