By MALUM NALU
Concern over perceptions of illegal squatting has prompted a prominent Lae company to come out and clarify the presence of thousands of containers at the old Lae airport.
Riback Stevedores stores upwards of 2, 000 containers on the old airport and has had a presence there since 2009.
General manager of Riback Stevedores Peter Boyd said yesterday that perceptions amongst certain groups that Riback was using the land without authority and not paying rental was “totally baseless and untrue”.
Riback operations manager George Gware queried why the provincial government and Lands Department do not look at the use of the seaside end of tarmac by several major companies as an example of ‘illegal’ occupation.
“We pay a very high market rate to a legitimate titleholder, Lae Urban Local Level Government (LULLG), yet other companies are occupying the airport land free of charge,” he said.
Investigations with Lands Department verified that one of these companies is attempting to obtain a state lease on Portion 360 (seaside block at end of the tarmac), while another application for a prominent block of land is underway, despite neither applicant complying with many requirements of the Lands Act.
Gware said a fence was recently put around a block of land opposite Angau Hospital by another construction company less than a month ago “in nothing more than a blatant attempt to steal more state assets”.
Boyd said in October 2009, LULLG and Riback entered into a joint venture agreement to use the tarmac for storage of LNG cargo in the initial stages while the 11-Mile LNG lay down area was under construction.
He said in August 2011, Riback and the LULLG agreed on a long-term lease agreement for a significant portion of land.
“Development of the lease area is progressing and Riback expect to vacate the tarmac by mid-2013 and move onto the developed land at the same time,” Boyd said.
“Our company pays in excess of K2.25 million annually to the LULLG for the lease of this land and we employ 100 staff at the inland terminal.
“Prior to 2009, the containers would have been stored at the Lae port and this has lessened the port congestion significantly”.
“I consider the arrangement with the LULLG to be of great benefit for the people of Lae and that the income earned by the LULLG will undoubtedly improve service delivery to the ratepayers of Lae.
“Our good relationship with the LULLG has enabled us to ease serious problems with lack of space at the Port and at the same time has provided viable storage alternatives to the high PNG Ports storage charges.”
Riback Stevedores is a joint venture between Ahi Holdings - the umbrella company for the six Ahi villages of Butibam, Kamkamung, Hengali, Wagang, Yalu and Yanga - and Consort Express Lines (CEL) and has been operating at the Lae port for 40 years under various names.