By Mark N. Mengonfia
MONROVIA-APM Terminals has fallen into trouble with the House of Representatives thus canceling its 9.67% tariff and a call for the agreement between them and the Liberian government to be reviewed.
The decision was reached when members of that body arranged the managements team of the National Port Authority(NPA) and APM Terminals before them on Tuesday to justify why they raised the tariffs at the detriment of the citizens of Liberia.
Members of the House of Representatives, through a motion proffered by Rep. Samuel Kogar, also voted to formally write the Executive branch of the Liberian government in the spirit of coordination and collaboration informing it of its decision on the reversal of the tariff.
Plenary mandated its committees on Judiciary, Commerce and Trade and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning to review the 25-years APM Terminal concession agreement and report within two (2) weeks.
Before plenary could reach the decision, (NPA) Managing Director, Bill Tweahway took the stance and openly told the angry lawmakers; “The concession agreement of APM Terminal is a bad agreement and should be amended.”
His statement backed by the action of the witness from Representing the APM Terminals, House of Representatives has ordered the NPA to submit report of compliance with the APM Terminal regarding the marine services, top managerial positions and agreements with the signatures of Ministers of Justice and Finance on Thursday, January 28, 2021.
However, the APM Terminal was also requested to bring 75 copies of their audited financial reports from 2011 to 2020 and to as well make available 75 copies each of the agreement between them and the government.
In other news, the House of Representatives has summoned the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) BIVAC and GTMS to show cause why they shouldn’t be held in contempt.
It may be recalled that last Tuesday following a motion filed by Representative Dixon Seboe after the report of its specialized committee set up to investigate APM Terminals’ operations in Liberia, the House Plenary summoned APM Terminal, BIVAC, LRA and major shipping Lines to appear Tuesday.
Presenting the highly anticipated report which include a comparative analysis of APM Terminals’ operations in Liberia and that of Ghana, the Chairman of the Committee, Representative Clarence Massaquoi (District # three, Lofa County), said unlike in Liberia where APM Terminal has a 100 percent ownership right, APM Ghana has 70 percent share, while the Ghanaians are awarded three percent, with the Ghanaian Government to buy any of the remaining shares.
Rep. Massaquoi said, handling total operation of the port to a foreign firms does not only have economic disadvantages, but also security implications.
His colleagues including Rep. Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis and Francis Dopoh backed him and called for a comprehensive review of the concession.
They also called for the submission of the company’s financial statements to ascertain if it has invested US$100 million in Liberia as it is alleging. Other lawmakers including Rep. Edward Karfia called for a repeal of the agreement but Rep. Vincent Willie differed, in that it will affect more Liberians that are already employed by the company.
Owing to the prolonged debate over the report on the floor, the plenary decided to further extend the discussion on the report before taking a definite decision.
While the committee’s report is being reviewed, plenary opted to invite key players to address the pressing need on hand that include the astronomical increase of service fees charged at the port.
Rep. Francis Nyumalin said while APM Terminal was in the spotlight, there were other key parties including shipping lines and BIVAC, who have increased their fees also, and as such they should be invited.
Rep. Seboe, who proffered the motion, called on all parties to appear with relevant financial documents to state reasons for the continued increment. The officials are to appear next Tuesday. It can be recalled that Plenary mandated its specialized committee probing into the operation of APM Terminals in Liberia to submit reports of its findings which include a comparative analysis of the company’s operations in Liberia and the Republic of Ghana.
The House’s move came as a result of APM Terminals’ latest increment of all current charges of its services at the Free Port of Monrovia.
Recently, the company announced a 9.67 percent increment on all current charges of its services at the Free Port of Monrovia. With the increase, fees for clearing a 20-foot container is now US$207, up from US$189.
The port operator said the increment was in line with its concession agreement with the government of Liberia which allows a 2021 tariff adjustment using predefined formula.