PORTS TRAINING: SCAMS AND OPPORTUNITIES

By Norma Wheeler Monday, April 09, 2018
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Throughout Africa the port and terminal sector is booming. In South Africa alone there are 11 terminal projects in the pipelines (according to a recent announcement from Transnet National Ports Authority). There is accordingly interest in skills development to capitalise on growth in the sector, and fraudsters are exploiting this. There has been a noticeable uptick in scams in the ports training space, with companies misrepresenting that they are organising legitimate ports training courses in South Africa.

I am aware of at least two courses in South Africa in recent months that have falsely purported to be associated with Maritime and Transport Business Solutions (MTBS), a top international port development consultancy. Without the knowledge or consent of MTBS, the course organisers misrepresented that MTBS port advisors would conduct the training.

The modus operandi is that these course organisers sell the course by falsely associating it with a reputable company, collect funds for courses which they never intend to hold and keep those who have subscribed for the course at bay by claiming that the course has been postponed to a future date.

Some of the scams are quite sophisticated in that the brochures seem genuine as they closely resemble brochures for legitimate courses and the course organiser might have a website with seemingly impressive credentials. A good way of vetting advertised courses is checking whether the advertised trainers have agreed to participate and whether the advertised venue is aware of the course.

I receive regular invitations to partake in or present training and conferences in my field. I rarely accept as more often than not these events are cancelled. Insufficient attendees is often cited as the reason, but I wonder if deposits are returned to those who did agree to attend. In light of the pandemic of training scams, I would bet that this is often not the case. Even if deposits are returned, many disreputable event organisers cancel events at a whim, even though expenses have been incurred for travel and hotel bookings. It is particularly galling that the fine print of the terms and conditions used by many organisers permits them to cancel or reschedule the event, making legal recovery more difficult. Another irritation is the extent of spam and telemarketing calls I receive about these events. It is not uncommon for me to field scores of calls from overzealous telemarketers, despite asking to removed from the relevant database. A good tactic is to insist that the telemarketers stop contacting you, failing which you will report them to the National Consumer Commission for breach of the Consumer Protection Act. When I resort to this, I am usually left in peace for a while.

Turning to some good news, there will be a legitimate Port and Terminals Concession Course held at Bowmans’ Sandton office on 24 – 25 April 2018. The course is organized by Ports Finance International (PFI) and will be taught by two ports advisory experts from MTBS and two guest speakers from Bowmans - lawyers in the firm’s port, transport and logistics sector - presenting a segment on the South African ports regulatory framework (including public procurement). The course covers the following: structuring port and terminal PPP’s, designing the tender process, submitting compliant tenders, drafting concession agreements, and managing concession agreements in practice. This goes to show that there are some genuine opportunities for upskilling in respect of port expertise, despite the proliferation of scams.

This article first appeared in the Sunday Tribune.