June 18 - The EMS-Fehn-Group, which operates the EMS APO terminal in Albania's port of Durres is calling this week's occupation of the terminal by staff members of rival stevedoring companies an "illegal occupation".
Manfred Müller, managing director of EMS APO and ceo of EMS-Fehn-Group, says that the occupation, which saw around 60 staff members of three rival companies led by their management, enter the terminal and climb onto the piles of chrome ore, forced crane operators to stop loading the vessel.
Müller says this is the climax of a campaign that has been going on for months and claims that the Durres Port Authority with the assistance of the Albanian Ministry of Transportation is "trying to squeeze EMS APO out of business."
EMS APO signed a leasing and operating contract with the Albanian state in 2013 for the East Terminal of the port of Durres. The terminal is mainly used for import and export of bulk cargoes such as chrome, clinker and coal, but also for breakbulk, general cargo and project cargoes.
Müller states: "Over the last few months the director of the Durres Port Authority ordered EMS APO several times to stop all stevedoring activities and the stuffing of chrome into containers, whilst initiating numerous actions against the terminal."
In the latest action Müller says that the director of the port was also actively involved and presented EMS APO with a letter in which he demanded an immediate shut down of operations.
Müller reports that EMS APO called the police and asked them to remove all unauthorised people from the terminal, but they refused, saying they were not responsible.
Yesterday Müller says that state authorities continued their action and ordered the port security guards to close the gates to the EMS APO terminal.
"This is a blatant attempt to exterminate a company that painfully follows all Albanian laws, pays all rents and taxes on time and to the last penny", adds Müller.
"There is not a single complaint by our customers and our staff are happy to work for EMS APO. In short: We did nothing wrong - except for not paying any bribes.
"These incidents show that the Albanian administration is not at all willing to fight corruption. We will take legal actions against DPA and the Ministry of Transportation.
"If Albanian courts do not protect binding contracts this will be a clear signal to all foreign companies that foreign investments in Albania are not safe."
For further background on this long standing dispute, see the article on page 135/6 of the September/October 2014 edition of HLPFI.
Click here to watch a video of the illegal occupation.