MONROVIA, Montserrado – Rep. Matthew Joe of Grand Bassa’s third district has accused the management of APM Terminals of gross disrespect to the government and people of Liberia over its recent handling of the gasoline crisis in the country.
But Rep. Joe had other issues in mind that appear unrelated to the gasoline crisis.
In a communication sent to the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Feb. 18, Joe said the 2010 concession agreement between the National Port Authority and APM Terminals provides that APM Terminals – the firm which currently manages the Freeport of Monrovia – would invest upwards of US$120 million to modernize port facilities over its 25-year concessional period.
He was referring specifically to Section 7.06, Sub-Section D of the agreement, which also obliges the company, after five years of operation, to turn over the marine services to the Liberian government. It has been nearly 10 years since the agreement was signed and APM Terminals is yet to turn over the marine services to the government, according to Joe.
Marine services are port-related activities that ensure the safe and efficient flow of vessel traffic at a port, in addition to ensuring that vessels at anchor are safe.
“I wonder why APM Terminals is still holding on to the marine services when it should have been turned over some five years again, in fact from 2010-2020 it’s already 10years. What’s going on? Why are they not going by the contact and disrespecting our government?” the representative inquired.
Joe also raised serious questions about APM’s personnel obligations to the government and the people of Liberia.
The agreement, according to the representative, provides that “within five years of operation, the company will have hired at least four Liberian citizens, or about 50 percent, in its eight most senior management positions, while 75 percent of the eight most senior management positions shall be given to Liberian citizens after 10 years”.
Within the agreement, Liberians may hold the positions of managing director, head of finance, head of operations, head of information technology, head of safety, security and environment, head of technical, head of human resources, and head deputy finance manager. Joe said the company had failed to live up to these provisions.
To date, most, if not all of these positions, are still out of reach of Liberians.
The representative, therefore, demanded in his letter that the company appears before the House to explain the status of its obligations and to give reasons why it has failed to turn over marine services to the Liberian government.
“APM Terminals should also tell us why they have refused to turn over the marine services to the Liberian government,” he wrote.
Joe’s tough stance against APM was welcomed by some of his colleagues. His letter was even buttressed by a motion by the outspoken Coalition for Democratic Change lawmaker, Rep. Moses Acarous Gray of Montserrado eighth district, who asked that the communication be sent to the Special Committee constituted by House Speaker Chambers to review the statuses of all concession agreements, and to report to Plenary by Thursday, February 27.
But this recent aggressive posture by some lawmakers against the APM Terminals does not appear as a coincidence.
APM was recently forced to clarify its involvement in the nation-wide gasoline shortage which has continued to paralyze the country. The company was accused by authorities at the Commence Ministry and Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation for instigating the shortage through its restrictions on the docking of smaller petroleum vessel at the post, and its restrictive work on port storage facilities.
This clarification by APM, it seems, forced public suspicions for the crisis, away from the company and toward the relevant government functionaries. For this, it seems, some pro-ruling party representatives in the House are very unhappy.
Featured photo by Sampson David