Liberia: House Summons APM Terminals, NPA, LRA, Shipping Lines over Unprecedented Increase of Service Fees at Freeport of Monrovia
Capitol Hill, Monrovia – Plenary of the House of Representatives has summoned key players of Liberia’s shipping industry including the managements of APM Terminals, National Port Authority (NPA), Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and major shipping lines to state reasons behind the unprecedented rise of service fees, especially clearing of containers at the Free port of Monrovia.
Plenary took the decision on 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.
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 #3, 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 habe 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.
However, while the committee’s report is being reviewed, plenary opted to invite key players to address the pressing need on hand while, which 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, January 26.
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.
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 million 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 turning over the marine services to the government and ensuring that 50 percent of managerial positions be occupied by the Liberians.