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12.02.2005 General News

Maritime Board to decide trend of stevedoring operations

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Accra, Feb. 11, GNA - The Ministry of Ports, Harbours and Railways is awaiting the recommendations of the Ghana Maritime Authority Board to determine whether Ghana should maintain the quota system in stevedoring operations or adopt the competitive system. The Sector Minister, Professor Christopher Ameyaw-Akumfi, told the GNA in an interview that the Board had been tasked to examine the pros and cons of both systems and advice the Ministry by the end of this month accordingly. He, however, explained that whichever system would be chosen would be fashioned to ensure maximum efficiency of the stevedoring companies and their survival in the business to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

Whereas some stevedoring companies advocate for the maintenance of the quota system for fear of being edged out of business in the event of the implementation of the competitive system, ship owners and their agents who use their services prefer the latter saying that would ensure quality service and efficiency. The GNA had enquired from the Minister why the competitive system, dubbed, "The Free For All System" was not implemented on January 1, this year, as scheduled to replace the quota system. Even though the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) in December released modalities and procedural policies towards the smooth implementation of the competitive system at the Tema and Takoradi Ports, the Ministry asked it to suspend the execution of the policy for the fifth time. But Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi explained that he gave the directive following petitions from some of the stevedoring companies that said they were not well positioned to favourably compete.

"Following the protest, I asked the Maritime Authority Board to talk to the stevedoring companies, ship owners and their agents, freight forwarders and other stakeholders with the view to choosing a system that would satisfy all partners," he stated. "If we choose to maintain the quota system, we would have to put monitoring mechanisms in place to ensure that ships are not unduly delayed by the stevedoring companies.

"On the other hand, if we opt for the free for all, we ought to make sure that there is fair competition so that some companies do not fold up." Responding to a question on the basis for the allocation of quotas, Prof. Ameyaw-Akumfi said if it became necessary, the capacity and efficiency levels of the companies would be assessed again for quotas to be re-allocated. The protesting companies argue that in a competitive era they may not get jobs during the lean periods and that would spell their doom as they were yet to recoup their investments, especially in equipment, which were very expensive.

Under the current quota system, stable jobs are guaranteed for the nine stevedoring companies, including GHPA, as they are allocated specific percentages of port traffic, irrespective of their performance ratings. It is against this backdrop that the Ship Owners and Agents Association of Ghana (SOAG) hailed the move to reintroduce the free market system hopeful that the competition would promote an efficient and quality service delivery.

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