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11.11.2008 General News

Court to rule GASCO-GPHA saga Nov 18

By Richard Attenkah, Tema - Ghanaian Chronicle

The Commercial Division of the Accra High Court would on November 18, rule on a motion filed by the Ghana Association of Stevedoring Companies (GASCO), against the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

Last Monday, November 3, the court, presided over by his Lordship Justice Tanko, commenced hearing of the case, which saw counsels of both parties giving submissions to substantiate their arguments.

It would be recalled that GASCO and six private stevedoring companies operating at the Tema Port, instituted legal action against the Authority's decision to add berths three, four and five, to berths one and two, which already hold over 50 per cent of all stevedoring works at the Tema Port, to Meridian Port Services (MPS) at the expense of their interests.

The action was to seek a declaration that by virtue of the fact that the concession agreement between the Authority and Meridian Port Services (MPS) had no prior approval of the Parliament of Ghana, as indicated in the Article 181, sub-section 5 of the 1992 Constitution, it should be declared null and void.

They were also seeking a declaration that the decision of the GPHA to authorise and empower MPS to place limitations on their rights, under the existing stevedoring licenses, to carry out stevedoring operations at Quay 2 of the Tema Port, was unlawful, as it was done arbitrarily.

The plaintiffs were further asking for a declaration that a meeting held on March 29, 2007, between all stakeholders in connection with the GPHA and MPS concession agreement, was that MPS was to have the exclusive right to operate berths 1 and 2, and the rest of the six companies handle stevedoring works at berths 3 to 12.

Finally, they were seeking for an injunction to restrain the GPHA and MPS from further limiting their operations as licensed stevedores, on berths 3, 4 and 5 of Quay 2 and the whole of Quay 1, until the final determination of the case, and some costs.

In its statement of claim, GASCO averred that the decision by the GPHA to enter into a concession agreement with Meridian Port Services (MPS), and allocate over 50% of all stevedoring works at the Tema Port to it, lacked parliamentary approval, and therefore should be declared null and void.

However, GPHA entered a conditional appearance to set aside GASCO's writ, on the grounds that legally GASCO and the six other stevedoring companies were barred by some statutes, and therefore the injury they were complaining about was non-existent.

The GPHA tendered that the stevedoring companies were supposed to have notified the authority, at least one month ahead, before filing the suit against it.

They further averred that the authority did not require the prior approval of Parliament to enter into such contractual agreement with MPS, based on legal powers vested in it by PNDC law 160.

They claimed further that the authority had the right, under the concession, to grant MPS the option to stevedore ships carrying in excess of 50 containers arriving at any part of the Tema Port.

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