For almost a month Contecon has been waiting for the Transport Ministry (MTOP) to formalize the promised dialogue tables with the port sector. In them, it seeks to insist on the alleged illegality of the operating permit of its main competitor, Fertigran (TPG), which was ratified as legal by the MTOP in November.
Jorge Zavala Egas, Contecon’s lawyer, estimates that the dialogue would begin in January. But the MTOP, consulted by this newspaper, did not confirm the date.
Contecon asked the MTOP, in August, to declare the nullity of the operating permit granted in a 2017 resolution, in which – according to the document – the authorizations issued by the defunct National Council of the Merchant Marine and Ports in favor of Fertigran were repealed and permission was granted to this terminal.
“All the previous resolutions are consolidated into a single permit,” says José Modesto Apolo, Fertigran’s lawyer, who highlights that Contecon accepted in the concession contract -in 2007- competition with private ports, including Fertigran, which has its own permit since 2004.
But Contecon sees this permission as ‘illegal’, because: “the Constitution prohibits the granting of permits since 1998, and these delegations can only be made by contracts, not by unilateral permits, authorizations, or licenses,” argues Zavala.
However, el MTOP confirmed the legality of Fertigran’s operating permit, despite the legal argument given by the attorney Íñigo Salvador Crespo, in an official letter on October 5, in which he concludes that Fertigran obtained a permit when the procedure was to apply the delegation.
The Attorney General’s Office also found, according to the document, that the port law does not coincide with the Constitution, which is why – he adds – that “it is necessary to carry out the necessary procedures so that these norms are adapted to constitutional principles.”
“The prosecutor says it is illegal, and the minister says it is legal. There is the situation of the divergence,” says Zavala. Meanwhile, the MTOP argues that the attorney’s opinion “does not have the character of binding”, because it was not consulted by this entity.
Fertigran asked the Attorney General’s Office to review his statement, to which Salvador responds -in an official letter- that his opinion is legal and should be considered by the MTOP.
In the last three years, some of Contecon’s clients have gone to other operators, especially Fertigran (TPG), which last year surpassed Contecon in moving cargo with more than 500,000 metric tons. Contecon imported and exported a load of 6’013.625 and Fertigran, 6’505.492.
This is due, according to Zavala, because Fertigran offers “lower” rates, because as they are not concessioned, they do not have to pay certain items to the state that Contecon does. “Only three provide public service: Fertigran, Contecon and DP World, but only two have concession contracts, Fertigran is the only privileged one with unilateral permits,” he says.
While Apolo alleges that Contecon has lost clients due to “inefficiencies”, due to alleged lack of investment. In addition, he adds, that the private port charges were raised by 700% in 2014.
Apolo believes that what is illegal is that Contecon, for example, had the concession renewed last year for the same term as in the 2007 contract, of 20 years, without a tender, and without supposedly having paid what the concessionaire had. scheduled in 2014.
“What was possible at that time was to terminate the contract, not to give it more time,” argues Apolo, Fertigran’s lawyer. But Zavala, from Contecon, denies it: “Everything is paid for, everything is up to date … Fertigran would have to show why he says it.” (I)
MTOP revoked permission for dangerous cargo
The MTOP updated the permit to Fertigran in 2017, invalidating previous authorizations, such as the one that allowed the mobilization of dangerous cargo, vehicles. Given this, Contecon’s lawyer assures that Fertigran would be providing this service without authorization. And instead, Fertigran’s lawyer claims that the permit is “the sum of all the rights granted since 2004.”