|Mr. Isaac Klu ( in smock) addressing the press|
By Edmund Mingle, Tarkoradi
The Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Workers Union yesterday (Wednesday May 14) declared its support for the Atuabo Free Port project in the Western region, saying the project holds a lot of promise for the country.
According to the workers, although they had initial concerns about the project, they were prepared to support it.
A resolution passed AT a meeting of Senior and Junior staff unions
of GPHA on May 9, and read at a press conference in Takoradi on Wednesday said "We resolve that the unions are no against the development of Atuabo Free Port as misunderstood by sections of the public," they said.
Mr. Isaac Klu, Local Union chairman of Maritime and Dockworkers Union at Tema, who addressed the press, said they raised the concerns against the project initially because they believed any port development or construction of additional port must be the responsibility of GPHA as per the PNDC Law 160 and at worst, in partnership with GPHA to ensure that the public interest is upheld.
Hitherto, the GPHA have kicked against the 650 million dollar Atuabo Free Port (AFP) project which is expected to become a West African hub for the logistics and servicing of vessels and the oil and gas industry.
The project, in which the government has 45 per cent share, although it will be fully funded by Lonrho and its partners, is currently awaiting Parliament's approval.
Apart from supporting the growth of the oil and gas sector and yielding financial benefits for the State, the project is expected to lead to the speedy development of host communities particularly Atuabo whose chiefs have allocated a large track of land to represent their equity in the project.
"We are not against the Atuabo project, and we are not saying that the people of Atuabo do not deserve this glorious opportunity to be the first to directly develop," Mr. Klu said , adding that they were concerned with how GPHA could be allowed to effectively play a partnership role in the project.
He said they were convinced that the ATUABO FREE PORT LIMITED SHOULD BE OPENED TO MARKET COMPETITIVENESS WITHIN THE REGION, GIVING CUSTOMERS THE CHOICE IN TERMS OF COMPETITIVE SERVICE SATISFACTION AND THE ABILITY TO MEASURE PERFORMANCE LEVELS OF THE GAS AND OIL TERMINALS UNDER THE GHANA PORTS AND HARBORS AUTHORITY.
Explaining the reason for the softening of their stance, Mr Klu explained that based on information from the agreement before Parliament for ratification, the union has detected that the AFP is a Special Oil & Gas facility which would AFP have no adverse effect on è Takoradi and Tema harbours when completed.
He also said the the worker have found that the initial operational period for the management of the port by the private entity "is 10 years and not 20 years as we thought."
In additional, he said the unions were aware of the equity structure which favours government, as well as the opportunity for GPHA to participate in the project.
He, however, called for more clarity on the exclusivity issues, saying that although they have been made to understand that the project would not bar competition, proper guidelines needed to developed for the project.