Ghana’s main port set for expansion

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Efforts to boost capacity at Ghana’s largest sea port signal the government’s willingness to invest in transport infrastructure as it looks to keep up with increasing volumes of commodity exports and processed imports.

In early February, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) said it had received seven bids for the expansion project at Tema Port, the country’s busiest port. The authority first called for expressions of interest from contractors last March, with more than 50 firms responding, of which 21 – including two domestic firms – were pre-qualified to submit tenders.

Shipments through Tema have increased significantly in recent years. According to GPHA data, total cargo traffic jumped 31% between 2008 and 2012, from 8,727,049 tonnes to 11,451,005 tonnes. This was in part due to an increase in economic activity – annual GDP growth averaged around 8% over the period. However, political instability in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire during 2010-11 saw the diversion of some Abidjan-bound trans-shipment traffic to Ghana, with cargo shipments at Tema swelling 24% between 2010 and 2011.

The expansion works at Tema, which are expected to ease congestion and long wait times, will be carried out in five phases. The first stage will comprise basic infrastructural developments: breakwater, dredging and the construction of quay wall foundation trenches. At least five new berths will also be constructed during Phase 1. According to the GPHA, these will include two for containers, two for multipurpose and roll-on/roll-off vessels, and one for passenger and cruise vessels.

The second, third and fourth phases will add more terminals for containers and food and fruit transport to the port. Phase 5 will aim to target the oil rigs that travel along the West African coast.

Port to accommodate larger vessels

James Owusu-Koranteng, director of the port of Takoradi, the second-largest in Ghana, told reporters in early February the expansion would enable Tema to receive larger vessels beyond the current WAFMAX size – the new berths will be 16 metres deep, compared to the current 11.5 metres. The port will also provide dedicated space for cruise ships, with an eye toward boosting the tourism sector.

“This is a major development agenda for the port of Tema,” he said. “It is borne out of the GPHA’s sustained effort to keep up the pace of development and expansion of our ports ahead of the rapid population and socio-economic demands of the country.”

The seven companies that placed bids were required to submit engineering plans estimating the cost of the expansion, in addition to details of how they would secure the necessary credit facility to complete the projects, and proof of the ability to construct the works in conjunction with the GPHA as the borrower of the credit.

New roadway to boost connections

Given the rapid expansion of both the port and the economy as a whole, better inland transport will be necessary to ensure efficient shipment of goods to and from the port. According to Owusu-Koranteng, the only two access roads that connect the port to the motorway are inadequate to deal with current traffic volumes.

Plans are therefore under way to link the port to the motorway with a four-lane dual carriageway. In February the GPHA awarded a $400,000 contract to French consulting firm Messrs Louis Berger SAS to design the road, with a report due in July. The road works are expected to be carried out at the same time as the port expansion project.

According to Owusu-Koranteng, the new port and roadway will provide a boost to the economy both during the construction phase and in the longer term.

“Aside from improving business at the port, the expansion works will obviously translate into more job opportunities for Ghanaians; more stevedoring jobs; and more jobs for agents and various stakeholders engaged in the sea-trade industry,” he said.

The GPHA is not expected to choose a winning bidder to complete the port expansion until it has completed detailed evaluations of all proposed plans – a process set to take up to four months. A rapidly growing economy, however, ensures that these expansion plans are likely to turn a profit in the long term as better infrastructure and connectivity improve the efficiency and speed of the country’s trade and logistics services.

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