Yilport bemoans Bolívar ‘smear campaign’
Put up or go elsewhere and suffer: that seemed to be the main takeaway from a defiant statement from Yilport Holding’s (Yilport) boss following a call to examine Ecuador's Puerto Bolívar port contract following protests by banana producers.
In the release, Robert Yuksel Yildirim said that Yilport "cannot understand unfair protests and complaints", having already lowered the tariff for the first year of operations after a dispute over the new fees - despite tariffs already being laid out in the company’s public-private partnership contract with the Ecuadorian government of former President Rafael Correa and the port authority of Puerto Bolívar.
Mr Yildirim, the chairman of Yilport and the president and chief executive of Yildirim Group, both Turkish companies, also claimed that the banana exporters had not yet paid debts to the port, adding that if they didn’t, Yilport was "not obliged to serve them".
"They should be honest and pay their invoices to receive service from our terminal," Mr Yildirim commented.
Yildirim: A clear choice
According to the Yilport boss, Puerto Bolívar tariffs are cheaper than at ports in Guayaquil, a city further north in Ecuador.
If the banana exporters - who are threatening to go to Guayaquil instead of Puerto Bolívar - wished to do so, it was "a free market", Mr Yildirim said, but they would have to pay additional land transport fees, and the decision would "hurt both Puerto Bolívar and the industry".
However, banana exporters were Yilport’s "number one customers" and banana producers were not its competitors, he noted.
The Yildirim Group president also said that Yilport understood concerns of representatives for the National Assembly of El Oro, the province where Puerto Bolívar is located, and the business is ready to work with them, but it hoped they visited it prior to speaking to the media, noting "a smear campaign against Yilport in El Oro" and terminal development project protests.
"It is beyond suspect that the unrest is fuelled by certain parties with little knowledge about our cause," Mr Yildirim commented, saying that Yilport always works closely with labour groups and that Ecuador "must not be an exception".
In the statement’s closing paragraph, Mr Yildirim said: "This dark image of Yilport, painted by some parties, is absolutely incorrect and not acceptable", adding the company had strong references from many countries and had never had such issues in other nations.
"We will not yield and we are committed to Puerto Bolívar’s development," he concluded.
Yilport has been criticised by banana producers for its decision to increase the price of handling a box of bananas by 60% from next year, with a further hike of 16% the year after.
The producers have met with government representatives to call for the withdrawal of the Yilport concession.
Parliamentarians also argue that Puerto Bolívar should not have been put out to concession given its importance to the local economy.
It has been estimated that around 80% of Ecuador's banana production is shipped through the port.
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