Local Content Certificate: Ramps Logistics discontinues claim for damages against Govt

…to pursue costs instead

Ramps Logistics (Guyana) Chief Executive Officer Shaun Rampersad

Ramps Logistics (Guyana), which has been successful in its legal battle against the Government of Guyana for a Local Content Certificate, has decided to withdraw its application for damages, and will instead only pursue costs.
This position was communicated to acting Chief Justice Roxane George, SC, by one of the company’s lawyers, Ron Motilall, on Wednesday at the Demerara High Court. At a hearing in January, Justice George had given Motilall up to February 28, 2023 to report on whether the company would pursue its claim for costs and damages against the Government.
Addressing the court virtually, Motilall indicated that while Ramps Logistics intends to discontinue its claim for damages, the issue of costs has not been settled between the parties.

Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat

Considering this, he requested that costs be assessed in accordance with the applicable Civil Procedure Rules, since attempts to resolve same via letters have not been “fruitful”. He gave no reason for this course of action.
Representing the Government, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke has said Government remains open to amicable settlements rather than litigation. Another report hearing is set for March 23 at 11:30h.


Chief Justice(ag) Roxane George, SC

After a brief court battle with the Government, Ramps Logistics was issued its Local Content Certificate on Monday, November 14, 2022 in keeping with an order by Justice George.
The company, whose parent is Trinidadian, had initially applied for certification in April 2022, but that application was refused on June 8, 2022 after the Government had determined that it had failed to meet the requirements of the Local Content Act 2021.
The company had then reapplied, but had never received a response. Maintaining that it had met all the requirements of the Act, including being a local company incorporated under the Companies Act and beneficially owned by Guyanese nationals, Ramps Logistics filed judicial review proceedings against Natural Resources Minister Vickram Bharrat, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, and Director of the Local Content Secretariat, Dr Martin Pertab (respondents).
The Act defines beneficial ownership 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 had said that it is a “Guyanese company”, and had contended that the Natural Resources Minister’s decision to refuse its application was not only “unlawful, unreasonable and arbitrary”, but breached the Local Content Act.

“Guyanese company”
Finding that the company had indeed met the requirements for being a “Guyanese company”, the Chief Justice had ordered Pertab to certify the company by noon on November 14, failing which would have resulted in him being held in contempt of court and fined.
Besides finding that Minister Bharrat had no authority under the Local Content Act to decide whether to grant or refuse certification, Justice George had found that Pertab had considered irrelevant matters in deciding to refuse the company’s application.
The irrelevant factors to which she had alluded included the criminal charges against Ramps Logistics for making false declarations to the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), which were instituted in October 2022, several months after the company had submitted its application, and a mere five days after the company had mounted its judicial review action in September of that year.
Particulars of the charges stated that between 2021 and 2022, at GRA’s Camp Street, Georgetown Headquarters, the company had made several false declarations for consideration of a customs officer on an application presented for tax exemption on items.
Representing the respondents, whom 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.
Hawke had conceded that Ramps Logistics had indeed satisfied the requirements for registration in the Local Content Register, but had 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 had argued that considering this goes towards the company’s conduct, especially since the allegations levelled against Ramps Logistics involved tax evasion.
He had submitted 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, in her ruling, had 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 had told Hawke while reminding him of the presumption of innocence principle in the Constitution of Guyana.
Justice George had 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 had ruled that the company had satisfied all the requirements and preconditions 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,” Justice George had held.
As a “Guyanese company”, the Chief Justice had declared, Ramps Logistics is entitled to be issued with a certificate, and to be entered into the Local Content Register. She had found that Minister Bharrat had breached the Local Content Act when he refused to certify the company.
The Government had signalled its intention to appeal the Chief Justice’s decision.

Divested ownership
At a press conference, Shaun Rampersad, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)of Ramps Logistics (Guyana), 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 an oil and gas company in the Caribbean out of Trinidad. (G1)