Turf war over cargo scanning at Tema Port - Two companies fight over exclusive rights

BY: Maclean Kwofi
An aerial view of expansion works at the Tema Port, the centre of the feud over who has exclusive right to scan containers
An aerial view of expansion works at the Tema Port, the centre of the feud over who has exclusive right to scan containers

Even before the US$1.5 billion expansion works at the Tema Port is completed, two private firms are already in a turf war over which entity has the exclusive right to undertake cargo scanning at the country’s biggest port.

Nick TC-Scan Limited and Meridian Port Services Limited (MPS) are each laying claim to having sole rights to cargo scanning in the yet-to-be-completed expansion project within the port.

Beyond the corporate feud, the tussle has stalled the procurement and installation of scanners at the port, forcing both sides to seek redress at the Ministries of Trade and Industry and Transport, with the hope of finding a lasting solution to the impasse.

It has emerged that each of the firms has different contracts with different ministries.

Claims


Checks by the GRAPHIC BUSINESS showed that Nick TC-Scan had an existing agreement with the government to exclusively provide non-intrusive cargo scanning at designated entry or exit points throughout the country, including the entire Tema Port, until 2025.

The firm’s contract was first signed in 2004 with the Ministry of Trade and Industry to run for 10 years. It was, however, renewed in 2014 by the ministry to run for another 10 years.

On the other hand, MPS, which is executing the US$1.5 billion port expansion project, says it was unaware of the exclusive rights of Nick TC-Scan to handle the scanning of containers.

In a letter dated February 7, 2018, and sent to Nick TC-Scan, MPS said, “the scanner facility that has been planned for the port expansion project is not a standalone process for just scanning the containers, but is an integral part of the new port operational facilities that has been designed and integrated along with several automated processes and systems at the gate-in and gate-out.”

The MPS contract, which is on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis, was signed by the Ministry of Transport to last for 35 years.

Concerns

When contacted, the General Manager (GM) of Nick TC-Scan, Mr Stephen Osei Aniagyei, said the development came to the notice of Nick TC-Scan when it engaged MPS to agree on a space to install and operate cargo scanners at the port after the expansion project.

“It was at that point that we became aware that MPS is considering procuring, installing and operating cargo scanners under the new port project,” he said.

Following the nature of the situation, the GM indicated that his outfit reported the development to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MoTI) and all parties at the ports for redress.

“As you may appreciate, we are extremely concerned about this development and we have exercised our right to put all parties on notice to avoid any potential breach of our mandate for cargo scanning.”

He noted that due to strides made in the last couple of years by Nick TC-Scan in investing heavily in scanning equipment around the country, it had placed several orders for more scanners to cover new sites such as the Tema port expansion area.

He observed that its mandate did not only cover high-volume sites such as Tema, but also low-volume critical entry or exit points that needed to be equipped with cargo scanners.

Also, he explained that because the country did not operate a fee-per-container scan regime, no scanner provider would be able to charge a fee-per-container scanned.

Mr Aniagyei expressed fear that MPS operating a cargo scanner could go contrary to the laid-down rules to introduce a charge on consignment to overburden shippers since it had been widely reported that MPS was to set its own tariff.

“Within the scope of our mandate, we currently scan all containers or consignments including imports and exports at no direct charge. The government pays us an agreed amount every month without recourse to the number of containers scanned.”

Response

At the time of going to press, the paper could not readily have a response of the management of MPS on the issue, but sources said the company had also reported the tussle to the Ministry of Transport for direction.

But, a letter sighted by the paper from MPS and dated February 7, this year, confirmed that MPS was procuring scanners for the new port expansion.

The letter insisted that the MPS was unaware of the exclusive rights of Nick TC-Scan to handle the scanning of containers and had also not seen any document to that effect.