Govt complies with court order, grants Ramps Logistics Local Content Certificate

After a brief court battle with the Government, Ramps Logistics (Guyana) was issued its Local Content Certificate on Monday in keeping with an order by acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC. The company, whose parent company is Trinidadian, had initially applied for certification in April but that application was refused on June 8 after it had failed to meet the requirements of the Local Content Act 2021. The company then reapplied and never received a response.

Ramps Logistics (Guyana) received its Local Content Certificate on Monday in keeping with an order by the acting Chief Justice

Maintaining that it had met all the requirements of the Local Content Act including being a local company incorporated under the Companies Act and beneficially owned by Guyanese nationals, Ramps Logistics (Guyana) filed judicial review proceedings against Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, and Director of the Local Content Secretariat Martin Pertab (respondents). Beneficial ownership is defined as owning 51 per cent of the company. Also, a local company is expected to have Guyanese in at least 75 per cent of executive and senior management positions, and at least 90 per cent in non-managerial and other positions. In its application, the company said that it is a “Guyanese company” and contended that the Natural Resources Minister’s decision to refuse its application is not only “unlawful, unreasonable and arbitrary”, but breaches the Local Content Act.

“Guyanese company”
Finding that the company had indeed met the requirements for being a “Guyanese company”, the Chief Justice, on Friday, ordered Pertab to certify the company by noon on Monday, November 14, failing which would have resulted in him being held in contempt of court and fined.

Ramps Logistics (Guyana) CEO Shaun Rampersad

Representing the respondents, who the Chief Justice held had fallen woefully short of countering the company’s application, was Solicitor General Nigel Hawke and other counsel from the Attorney General’s Chambers. Besides finding that Minister Bharrat had no authority under the Local Content Act to decide whether to grant or refuse certification, Justice George found that Pertab considered irrelevant matters in deciding to refuse the company’s application.
The irrelevant factors she alluded to include the criminal charges against Ramps Logistics (Guyana) for making false declarations to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) which were instituted in October, several months after the company submitted its application, and a mere five days after the company had mounted its judicial review action in September.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC

Particulars of the charges stated that between 2021 and 2022, at GRA’s Camp Street, Georgetown headquarters, the company made several false declarations for consideration of a customs officer, on an application presented for tax exemption on items.

Company’s conduct
Hawke conceded that Ramps Logistics had indeed satisfied the requirements for registration in the Local Content Register but said that consideration of the company’s resubmitted application was halted pending the hearing and determination of those criminal charges.
While the law does not stipulate that a criminal charge is a ground upon which a company can be refused certification, Hawke argued that considering this goes towards the company’s conduct, especially since the allegations levelled against Ramps Logistics (Guyana) involved tax evasion.

Trinidad-based investor Deepak Lall

He said that not being Local Content certified does not prevent the company from operating in the oil and gas sector, but rather just limits what it can and cannot do.
The Chief Justice, however, questioned the Local Content Secretariat’s rationale for refusing to grant the company the certificate. “It’s just a charge; it hasn’t been proven,” she told Hawke while reminding him of the presumption of innocence principle in the Constitution of Guyana.
Justice George reasoned that the company cannot be denied a Local Content Certificate on a basis that is not set out in the Local Content Act and given the above constitutional parameters.
According to her, the Local Content law provides a simple regime for registration once a company satisfies the criteria. After reviewing the relevant documents submitted by Ramps Logistics, the Chief Justice ruled that the company has satisfied all the requirements and pre-conditions required by the law, in this case—being a Guyanese company—for the issuance of the certificate.
“There is no evidence submitted by the respondents to counter the information provided by [Ramps Logistics] which I have concluded satisfies the requirements of the Local Content Act. Mr Pertab from his Affidavit in defence refers to a Form C—a list of requirements that have no statutory basis. He also refers to charges by the Guyana Revenue Authority which are irrelevant to the determination of an application under the Local Content Act,” held Justice George.
As a “Guyanese company”, the Chief Justice declared that Ramps Logistics is entitled to be issued with a certificate and to be entered into the Local Content Register and consequently granted an order of certiorari quashing Minister Bharrat’s June 8 decision after it was found that the Local Content Secretariat breached the Act when it refused to grant the company certification.
On the issue of costs and damages that the company sought against the respondents, Justice George said that these will be assessed at another hearing.
The case comes up again on February 20, 2023, for further directions. Ramps Logistics (Guyana) was represented by Senior Counsel Edward Luckhoo and Attorney-at-Law CV Satram.

Divested ownership
At a press conference, Ramps Logistics (Guyana) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Shaun Rampersad had related that the company divested 51 per cent ownership of its Guyana operations to Trinidad-based investor Deepak Lall, who has Guyanese parentage, to bring its operations in compliance with the Local Content Law.
Lall’s grandfather and father are both Guyana-born but migrated in 1961, and the family now operates one of the largest oil and gas companies in the Caribbean out of Trinidad. In fact, Lall’s grandfather was in the petroleum business in Guyana, operating a gas station – Lall’s Esso Station in Vreed-en-Hoop, West Bank Demerara (WBD), during the 1950s.
According to the CEO, Lall bought 51 per cent shares for $210 million, and the monies were earmarked for two major projects for the company – a new cargo airline for additional airlift into and out of Guyana, and a new shipping line to move cargo among Guyana, Trinidad, and Suriname.
Despite the assertions of the Local Content Secretariat as to its excuses for not addressing the issuance of the certificate, the company claimed that the Secretariat has granted a number of certificates to companies that are in a similar position to it, including Crane Worldwide Logistics (Guyana), which submitted its application on or about July 20 and was granted a Local Content Certificate on August 3.
“51% of the issued shares in that company are held by Guyanese nationals and 15 of its Board of Directors are comprised of Guyanese nationals,” it noted.
Ramps Logistics had complained that its operations had been severely affected without the certificate and that it had risked losing a US$25 million contract from ExxonMobil (Guyana) and its subsidiaries. In an affidavit in support of its pleadings, Ramps Logistics Director, Samantha Cole deposed that if the company is not added to the Local Content Register, it will be forced to reduce its operations and dismiss a majority of its employees.
It also claimed that the Government had been discouraging companies from doing business with it because it was not Local Content certified. Monday marked nine years since Ramps Logistics commenced operations in Guyana. (G1)