Liberia: House Reawakens APM Terminals’ Investigation amid Latest Increment in Tariff

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Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Plenary of the House of Representatives has 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 latest move came as a result of APM Terminals’ latest increment of all current charges of its services at the Free Port of Monrovia.

In recent days, 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.

The jump in taxes comes on the back of another increment in 2020 and 2019, which has seen the company’s terminal handling charges increased significantly.

The company’s move prompted Rep. Matthew Joe (District #4, Grand Bassa County) to proffer a communication to the plenary, seeking its indulgence to invite the management of APM Terminals and the Freeport of Monrovia to appear and give detail reasons why the company continues to increase tariff amid the economic hardship grappling Liberians.

Rep. Joe, whose communication last year prompted the constitution of the specialized committee, further taking the floor on Thursday, unequivocally said APM Terminals’ continued increment of tariff was unacceptable and it was now time the Government put stop it.

Citing APM Terminals’ financial report, Rep. Joe noted that the company made a whopping amount of US$45,757,047 in 2018, and out of this amount, the Government of Liberia received only US$7,950,212, leaving the company with US$37.8 million. Then in 2019, Rep. Joe said of the US$46,563,230 the company generated, it remitted just US$9 million to the government and left with US$37.5 millions as profit.

He called for an urgent need to review the agreement signed between the APM Terminals and the Government to correct some of the flaws that the company is dwelling to exploit the Liberian citizens.

According to him, the company was using a clause in the agreement which give it the right to increase tariff every year by imposing, while it continues to ignore some of the provisions of the pact that benefits the government and its citizens. Some of these provisions, he noted, include the turning over the marine services to the government and ensuring that 50 percent of managerial positions be occupied by the Liberians.

“The company only implements the clause that benefit it while it continues to ignore the ones that benefit Liberians and the government. I think APM Terminals’ operations in Liberia need to be revisited to address some of the clauses that continue to harm our people and economy. And this can be done through engaging the Executive,” Rep. Joe asserted.

Several lawmakers commended Rep. Joe for flagging the issues and backed him in calling or a timely intervention.

Rep. Thomas Fallah (District #5, Montserrado County) called for the specialized committee set up in 2020 to investigate the APM Terminals’ operations to give a detail report on its finding before inviting the officials to plenary.

“In order to be more robust to save our people from these untold sufferings, let us give the specialized committee the opportunity to come and brief us on next week Tuesday,” Rep. Fallah suggested.

According to him, the continued increment of tariff was harming Liberians and effecting businesses as most importers now prefer to use the ports of Guinea and Sierra Leone to import their goods and use the land border to enter Liberia.

Rep. Samuel Kogar (District 5%, Nimba County), also noted that the increase in tariff is adversely affecting the economy.

Businesses are diverting their goods from the Port, while others are smuggling theirs from neighboring countries, he said

Following sustained deliberations on the floor, Rep. Edward Kaifia (Dictirct #5) filed in a motion calling on specialized committee report next Tuesday, January 19, 2020, and was agreed by plenary through a majority vote.

The committee was set up in 2020 to launch a comprehensive investigation into the company’s operations in Liberia and reports its finding to plenary.

As part of its investigation, members of the committee travelled to Ghana in 2020 to get firsthand information on APM terminals’ operation in Ghana, as compared to its activities in Liberia.

Committee members include Reps. Clarence Massaquoi (Distirct, Lofa County), Samuel Kogar (District #5, Nimba County), Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis (District #4, Montserrado County) Francis Dopoh (District #3, River Gee), Edwin M. Snowe (District #1, Bomi) and the late Rep. Munah Pelham Youngblood.

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