The Ghana Association of Stevedoring Companies (GASCO) and six stevedoring companies operating at the Tema Port have issued a writ of summons against the Ghana Ports and Harbour Authority (GPHA) and Meridian Ports Services Limited (MPS).
The legal action which was issued on October 15 at the Commercial Division of the High Court, Accra, is seeking an injunction restraining GPHA and MPS from limiting their (stevedore companies) operations on Berths three, four and five of Quay one among other claims.
The suit named GASCO, Golden Gate Services Limited, Odart Stevedoring Company Limited, Advanced Stevedoring Company Limited, Speedline Stevedoring Company Limited, Dashwood Shipping Agencies Limited and Fountain View Limited as plaintiffs, while GPHA and MPS are the defendants.
The writ was issued by Mr Acquah Sampson of the Acquah-Sampson and Associates on behalf of the plaintiffs.
A copy of the writ made available to the Ghana News Agency in Tema stated as part of plaintiffs' claims that the economic transaction represented in the “purported Concession Agreement” between GPHA and MPS require the prior approval of parliament within the true meaning of Article 181 of the 1992 constitution.
It stated that the decision of GPHA to authorize and empower MPS to place further limitations on their rights was unlawful as it violates the duties imposed on GPHA under Article 23 of the constitution.
In a statement of claim, the plaintiffs stated that since 2002 they have collectively invested over 30 million dollars in acquiring new cargo handling equipment, including container handling equipment for their stevedoring operations at the Tema port as part of requirement for the issuance of licenses.
They further stated that they contracted loans at high interest rates to finance the acquisition of the equipment, which they intend to repay with anticipated income generated from their stevedoring operations, particularly container handling at the ports of Tema and Takoradi.
The plaintiffs contended that following the completion of a new container terminal at Berth one and two at the Tema port in 2005, GPHA without consulting with them took over all stevedoring operations at the two berths excluding them contrary to their licenses.
The statement of claim noted that the plaintiffs who protested against their exclusion were assured that the exclusion was only a temporary measure to allow GPHA to recoup directly its investments towards the development of the container terminal.
The plaintiffs further stated that GPHA however notified them by a letter in 2006 that it had entered into a concession agreement with MPS purporting to give special concessions to MPS to exclusively undertake all stevedoring operations at the said berths one and two.
They stated that they complained against the implementation of the agreement adding that “the terms of the concession agreement itself have to date been shrouded in complete secrecy contrary to article 181 of the 1992 constitution.”
Plaintiffs again said MPS invited them to a meeting through a letter dated September 25, 2008, adding that MPS “sought to impose further limitations on the business and operations of the plaintiffs by limiting the plaintiffs' right to stevedore to only ships that berth with up to 50 containers at berth three, four and five.”
The plaintiffs aver that if the intended limitations were not curtailed it would result in a loss of their business since vessels with less than 50 containers rarely berth at the Tema port.
“As a result of the unlawful limitations and restrictions imposed on the plaintiffs operations at the Tema port to date, the plaintiffs have sustained a 51.61 percent drop in their average monthly earnings from stevedoring operations putting their very existence at grave peril and also threatening the jobs and livelihood of their workers who number about 3,000,” the statement added.