Ramps Logistics, a Trinidadian company offering full-service supply chain management in Guyana since 2013, says it is hurt and now fears that it stands to lose in a major way after being denied a Local Content Certificate to operate in Guyana’s oil and gas sector.
Following the enactment of the Local Content Act in December 2021, Ramps Logistics sold 51 per cent of the company to a Trinidad-born businessman, Deepak Lall, who has Guyanese parentage, with the sole intention of qualifying to be on the register which would guarantee access to a schedule of services set aside for Guyanese.
The ordinary shares of 51 per cent were sold for $210 million.
But despite these efforts, the company said its application, which was submitted in April 2022, has been denied with no explanation, despite several pleas by the company to the Secretariat.
Head of the now divested Trinidad-owned company, Shaun Rampersad, said he is confident that Ramps Logistics reached all the requirements to be added to the local content registry and is urging the Local Content Secretariat to answer its appeal or it will be forced to take the matter to court.
“We felt we did it in the right way.”
Rampersad told a news conference at its New Market, Georgetown office on Thursday, that direct contact has not been made with the Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat or head of the Local Content Secretariat Martin Pertab but he intends to do so.
He went to lengths to ascertain Lall’s citizenship by providing the birth certificate of his grandfather and father which proved that they are both Guyanese. Lall only recently applied for and was granted a Guyanese passport and Rampersad rejected claims that it was applied for as a matter of convenience.
Rampersad said he does not believe that the actions taken to regularise Lall’s citizenship could amount to a circumventing of the letter and spirit of the law intended to secure benefits for locals.
“I don’t think it’s a scheme. The law is in place and we followed the law.”
In addition to the 51% ownership, the law also stipulates that Guyanese nationals must hold at least seventy-five percent of executive and senior management positions and at least ninety percent of non-managerial and other positions.
Persad said Lall was an investor that the almost nine-year-old company, with 400 employees in Guyana, could trust and who shares similar values and culture.
Although Ramps Logistics can continue to operate without the certificate in Guyana, Rampersad fears big losses but refused to say how much that amounts to in dollars and cents. He sought to focus instead on the potential staff cut that the logistics company would have to take if it is not granted the license.
He said Ramps Logistics is ready to fix its shortcomings but can only do so if the Local Content Secretariat identifies said shortcomings.
“There is a certain amount of hurt in the team because we really felt we went out there and were able to bring back somebody who could add significant value to Guyana,” Rampersad said while also noting that initially the company wanted to sell shares to its employees but shelved that idea after concerns were raised.
Out of the 400 employees, Rampersad said only two are foreigners. On the Board of five persons, three are Guyanese (including Lall) and two are foreigners.
Some of the services Ramps Logistics provide are ringfenced by a percentage of the business that should go to Guyanese and Guyanese companies.
The company denied claims that it was unfairly bundling contracts and, in the process, preventing Guyanese from benefiting.
After it was made public on Wednesday that Ramps Logistics was denied the certificate, the Private Sector Commission issued a statement expressing its full support of the government’s intention to take strong action against entities that are attempting to circumvent Guyana’s Local Content Law.
“The PSC is concerned by the ongoing practice to bundle contracts which often limits local businesses participating in the value chain. The Commission will continue its advocacy to ensure that the Local Content Law aids the utilization of Guyanese goods and services and supports skills development, and the training and employment of citizens,” the statement noted.
The Local Content Secretariat and the Natural Resources Minister declined to comment on the reasons for denying the company the certificate when contacted by the News Room.