Ghana’s Tema Port will officially become the largest in terms of capacity in West and Central Africa upon completion of phase 1 of the Meridian Port Services (MPS) Terminal 3, director-general of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) Michael Luguje said this week.
Up to 85 percent of Ghana’s trade is carried out through its two seaports – Tema and Takoradi. The former is bigger, handling as much as 80 percent of the country’s national exports and imports as well as serving the landlocked countries to the north such as Burkina Faso.
The Tema harbour stretches over a total land area of 3.9 million square meters and is situated along the Gulf of Guinea, 18 miles from the capital Accra. It serves both as a loading and unloading port for goods as well as a wide range of industrial and commercial companies, producing or handling several products and items for shipping.
The port receives an average of over 1511 vessel calls every year, comprising container vessels, general cargo vessels, tankers, and cruise vessels. At the close of 2018 and 2019, it handled one million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in single terminal volumes, according to Luguje. The target is to cross the one million mark this year despite reduced global trade due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A $1 billion investment in the Port was made this year for significant expansion of systems to handle various cargoes, in order to “maintain its reputation as the best performing container port in West and Central Africa,” reads a note on the website of APM Terminals, one of the joint venture partners in the project with a 35 percent stake. Other shareholders include GPHA (30 percent) and Bolloré Transport and Logistics with 35 percent.
The upgrade at Tema is being complemented by a similar ongoing expansion of the other port, Takoradi. This includes the upgrading of the dry bulk jetty with conveyor systems, construction of the multipurpose Atlantic Terminal, the completed liquid bulk terminal, and the pending oil and gas services terminal, Luguje said.
The liquid bulk terminal has the capacity to serve the whole liquid bulk industry for many years to come, the DG said. Meanwhile, the fourth phase of development in Takoradi is the oil and gas services hub, expected to be a “concentration of everything the offshore oil industry needs.”
The developments at Ghana’s ports point to growing competition in the sector and region, particularly over landlocked countries and especially with the overall growth of trade in West Africa. Total trade of the region is estimated at $208.1 billion.
Over the past decade, the growth in the volume of West Africa’s container trade exceeded that of any other region across the world, doubling to almost 5 million TEUs. This expansion, supported by rising incomes in the region, also contributed to excess congestion at its ports. With an aim to address the problem, many ports have begun investing in expanding the capacity of their port infrastructure and improving their handling efficiency.
Elsewhere in the region, Benin Republic last year said it was making efforts to re-invest in its major port in the capital city Cotonou with the aim of making the harbour competitive.
Apart from Tema in Ghana, the big competitors include Togo with a turnover of 18.3 percent from its port where it has heavily invested the facilities, Abidjan in Côte d’Ivoire and the Lagos Port Complex and Tin Can Island Port in Apapa, Nigeria, known for long waiting times.
“It’s cheaper less hassle to import motor vehicles from Ghana rather than the quagmire of Lagos ports. Travel from Ghana into Lagos is faster than from Apapa to Lekki. Hard facts Charlie no dey carry suffer for head abeg,” a Twitter user by the name @uchebakaadi tweeted in reaction to the Tema Port expansion news.