Interview: Mohamed Samara
How can Ghana maintain its competitiveness as a trans-shipment and transit destination?
MOHAMED SAMARA: MPS facilities in Tema Port already represent the largest container terminal port in West Africa, and the Ghanaian economy is the second largest in the region. Moreover, due to the country’s social and economic stability, the domestically generated import and export traffic coming through the port is expected to continue to grow in the future.
While considerable transit volumes bound for Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali go through the ports of Lomé, in Togo, and Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire, the neighbouring ports are not competitive enough to capture the traffic moving to and from Ghana for transit via land. That being said, the existing MPS terminal has had a limited capacity for the trans-shipment traffic that is currently being handled at neighbouring ports. Therefore, we saw there was a better chance to compete for trans-shipment market volume while further securing our locally produced import and export volumes.
To this end, we have invested significantly in infrastructure, equipment and local talent, expanding our capacity and improving efficiency. The centrepiece of this campaign involves the building of a 3.5-km breakwater, along with dredging the access channel alongside the quay to a depth of 18m in order to accommodate the world’s largest container vessels. Equally importantly, the expanded terminal will be running updated information technology and operations systems to reduce delays, and will receive a much larger fleet of cranes on the waterfront and in the yards to improve turnaround.
By the end of 2019 MPS will be capable of handling the largest container vessels currently being deployed around the globe – something which at the moment no other port in West or Central Africa is capable of doing. The new port facility is being geared to operate a yearly throughput of 2.5m TEU, a level that will double today’s existing capacity. In the wake of these upgrades, and with the solid base of locally generated traffic, Tema Port represents a competitive first port of call in West and Central Africa for the large mother vessels of major shipping lines, offering these companies the opportunity to trans-ship smaller volumes of traffic to numerous other ports elsewhere in the region.
What are the main challenges currently facing the expansion of Tema Port?
SAMARA: If one looks at the scale of the terminal being built, including all of the related marine works such as dredging and breakwater construction, along the rigorous design criteria – which require that each terminal be built to last 100 years – it is obvious that there is the potential for challenges.
That being said, so far we have managed to avoid any significant problems, largely thanks to the thorough simulation of the design that was conducted during the planning process. Moreover, we have the benefit of a project team that is both experienced and well resourced, which should allow us to overcome any construction challenges.
What action is being taken to address congestion concerns at Ghanaian ports?
SAMARA: Since 2013 it has become clear that traffic volumes of sea freight bound for Ghana have been steadily increasing, which is one reason why we began to embark on several plans of action to mitigate the prospect of greater congestion. This obviously includes our large-scale expansion project, but along with the capital investments we have put into both equipment and technology at the port, we have also reformed our existing processes. We introduced, for example, a fixed-berthing window scheme, which means that lines that are able to maintain a weekly service can plan to berth on the same day and hour.
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