Maritime workers threaten strike over Intels’ monopoly ploy

Workers in the maritime sector under the aegis of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) have threatened to shut down ports operations in the country if the Federal Government does not stop an alleged plot to designate INTELS Terminal, Onne as a national terminal for the clearance of oil and gas related cargos in the country.

MWUN issued the threat at the end of its recent Central Working Committee (CWC) meeting, warning that the plan if implemented will cause thousands to lose their jobs, among other consequences.

In the communiqué signed by Aham Ubani, the union general secretary, the workers said, “We are alarmed by the Seaport Terminal Operators Association (STOAN) publication in the media on October 17, 2014 on the developments arising from the recent commissioning of phase 4 Intels project at Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Ports which has to do with, among others, the reference made in the various addresses to the new operational capacity developed in the phase 4 project and the attendant attainment of 15 meters chart datum in the Berth and insinuations about a plot to designate the INTELS Terminal, a National Terminal for the clearance of heavy lift cargos and deep draught vessels.

“While we are not going to talk about the implications of these insinuations or developments to other terminal operators, because they are in a better position to talk about how it will affects them, we are much concerned about the job implications and job security of our members.

“As was pointed out by STOAN, there is doubt if this is approved, it will have gave implications for job creations and job security of our members in the maritime industry.  This, as a union, will not be tolerated under any guise,

“We have a lot of our members working with stevedoring companies in the midstream or offshore operations with vessels. Maybe we have to once again, remind those pushing for this policy that the reasons for the appointment of stevedoring companies to midstream and offshore terminals, like the STOAN clearly started in its publication, was to create jobs and address youth “restriveness as part of programme to sustain the amnesty offered insurgents during Niger Delta military era,” it said.

Terminal operators in the country in September opposed the moves to amend the provisions of the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority Act Cap 05 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2011.

The terminal operators under the aegis of Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), said it was not proper for the Senate to seek amendments of the Act without taking cognisance of existing agreements in the running of the ports.

The move, according to STOAN, would confer monopoly of oil and gas related cargo operation on Intels.

They also flayed the public hearing on an Act to amend the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Authority Act Cap 05 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2011 to provide for the designation and establishment of oil and gas free zones and special investment areas In Nigeria and for related matters.

In the petition signed by STOAN Secretary, Mr. Uzamot Boye, the terminal operators said the protest was first based on the fact that as stakeholders in the trade chain in Nigeria, they were not informed nor invited to the public hearing which touched “on the essence of the concession programme of the Government of Nigeria”.

According to the petition which was dated September 23, 2014, STOAN said: “A critical look at the proposed amendment, in particular the amendment of section 12, shows a clear violation of the existing extant laws and agreements on which the present port concessions are based. It is important to note that all the terminals that were concessioned  has its own separate and distinct subsisting agreements.

“In the circumstances therefore, we see these proposed amendments as illegal, biased and an attempt to serve a particular interest against the wish and will of Nigerians and against the spirit and letters of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended which the Senators as lawmakers swore to uphold.”

STOAN argued that the amendment to the Oil and Gas Export Free Zone Act CAP 05 LFN is premised on the consideration of the substantial investments made in Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone concession to Integrated Logistics Services Limited (INTELS).

The association maintained that the proposed amendment also assumes “that only INTELS has concessions in Onne, Warri and Calabar ports among all concessionaires in the Eastern ports with general cargo terminals.”