Interview: Mohamed Samara
How far have harbour operations in Ghana begun to leverage digitalisation?
MOHAMED SAMARA: Ports have come very far in terms of adopting a paperless process, and a lot of technology has been installed. For example, the internal processes at Tema Port have been paperless for many years, and the most recent upgrade has allowed for a fully digital interface accessible to port users. Through the terminal operating system, operators receive 3D models and data to provide an outline of the storage of containers on each ship. Moreover, biometric access control for drivers, licence plate recognition systems and optical character recognition to identify containers’ numbers are all synchronised with weigh bridges, scanners and radio frequency identification for trucks within the terminal. This high-end technology and equipment, fully integrated within container terminal operations at the port facility, has helped to eliminate congestion and maximise efficiency levels without compromising security. This digital-based system, which functions without human intervention, maintains national security, provides border security and safeguards state revenue, as it greatly diminishes the ability to make fraudulent declarations.
What will the ongoing Tema Port expansion mean for the port’s total capacity?
SAMARA: The expansions are being delivered ahead of schedule – the third berth was originally due to come on-line in June 2020, but it was opened in November 2019. The third berth does not yet have a full yard behind it, as this will be delivered by the end of February 2020. The fourth berth was scheduled for completion at the end of June 2022, but we now expect it to come on-line at the end of 2020. The total project is expected to be delivered around a year and a half ahead of schedule, at the end of 2020.
Thus far, a host of key performance indicators have been met: Tema ranks first for port safety in Africa; the expansion has increased berth productivity from 18 to 70 berth moves per hour; and capacity was at 850,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) as of end-2019, which is set to increase to 2m TEUs in 2020, before rising to full capacity of 3.7m TEUs in 2022. Today, however, the market demands 1m TEUs, so we expect there to be excess capacity. Trans-shipment will eat into the redundant capacity, and there are many opportunities to induce trans-shipment. We are the first terminal to launch berthing windows, where the week is divided into slots that provide every shipping line with a dedicated berth. This has synchronised the berthing of vessels and eliminated congestion. Furthermore, vessel anchorage time has been reduced to under a day and truck turnaround times have dropped from one day to under an hour. Discussions are also ongoing with a number of international shipping lines to place Tema at the centre of trans-shipment in West Africa.
To what extent will upgraded port infrastructure contribute to economic diversification?
SAMARA: There are a number of examples we can point to where ports have driven the development of countries and regions, such as Malaysia and the Port of Tangiers in Morocco. Our vision is that increased connectivity and reduced barriers will lead to many more manufacturers setting up shop in Tema with an export-oriented focus. An analysis of Ghana’s GDP shows that the gold and petroleum industries represent the bulk of earnings: gold accounts for 42% of GDP; petroleum 26%; agriculture 23%; and all the others, including manufactured products, represent 9%. However, when it comes to employment, gold and petroleum provide very few jobs, while agriculture provides 31% of the total. Creating jobs with value in agriculture and industry will help economic development and bring the vision of Ghana Beyond Aid to fruition. These employment opportunities will be driven by Ghana’s commitment to improving infrastructure.
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