Government must make a sustained effort to prepare locals, especially the youth, to fit in and take hold of critical aspects of the highly lucrative maritime industry as a means of job creation, says the General Secretary of the Maritime and Dockworkers’ Union (MDU), Daniel Owusu-Koranteng.
“As a country, we must prepare ourselves to be able to take advantage of the gains in the maritime transport industry and capacity building will be key in this regard. Else, we have no one to blame if others [foreigners] are raking in the profits of the sector,” he said in an interview.
In a discussion that focused strongly on the need for a workable and binding local content policy in the country’s sea trade industry, Mr. Owusu-Koranteng, also stressed that: “we cannot just say local content for the sake of it. Government should invest in building capacity of locals to be able to fit in and take control of certain critical areas of the maritime sector.”
The concern of the MDU boss aligns with that of several industry big wigs who argue that having in place a pragmatic local content policy for the sector will be key to the development of both the industry, local actors along its value chain and the economy at large.
At a recently held local content roundtable in Accra, the forum identified capacity building as a critical component that can facilitate strong local content in the maritime sector.
One of the recommendations in the communique from the meeting read: “The youth should be given the opportunity of training, education and capacity building in the maritime sector to enable them harness the available opportunities in the maritime sector in realization of objectives of local content.”
According to Mr. Owusu-Koranteng, his outfit welcomes the idea of local content as a means of job creation but such a policy must have guarantees and provisions that promote decent working conditions and discourages political with-hunting of business owners in the sector.
“As a union, we welcome the idea of local content; we feel government is being a bit late with the passage of the Cabotage Law and local content in the buoyant sea trade sector, but it is better that we tackle the issues well.
The union is particular about the creation of jobs in the maritime sector; it’s not just about any work say precarious jobs but rather, jobs based on decent work principle where unions can negotiate good renumerations for workers to earn good wages during their productive age and at the same time get to enjoy pension when they retire,” he told the B&FT.
Political witch-hunting killing businesses
Mr. Owusu-Koranteng further hinted that there is a seemingly partisan approach to business at the ports that, if not checked, could kill local businesses and render their employees jobless.
He therefore called for specific provisions and guarantees in Cabotage and Local Content Laws as being discussed, to make the implementation of those laws achieve the intended purpose.
“There is this seemingly partisan approach to business at the ports which is killing business. We need guarantees and provisions in the Cabotage and Local Content laws that we are planning to develop, to kill this kind of canker, then we can’t go far with this local content agenda.
If we start looking at the party colours of the people who are doing business at the ports, then we will be killing businesses and causing more people to lose their jobs,” he added.