Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority – Gateway to Africa

Between the pandemic and global supply chain issues, Ghana’s ports are showing the way towards a bright future for the country and continent.

The last few years have been a difficult period for the whole world and Ghana’s Ports and Harbours has been no exception, but the Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority has benefited from strong precautions and guidance.

“We’ve been working with preventive protocols and the cooperation of stakeholders within the port community and our country,” says Michael Luguje, Director General for the Authority. “Within the port sector we’ve kept ports open and cargo moving safely. We’ve helped the economy keep going. So, we’ve done quite well on the whole.”

This is a recurring theme in our conversation with Luguje, that his priorities have been people’s safety, and the wellbeing of the economy.

“I think our biggest achievement is that we’ve been able to keep the entire port community safe from any major impact of the pandemic. We kept the ports open for the Ghanaian economy and those of our neighbouring countries, keeping vessels sailing in and out,” he tells us proudly. “We’ve been very effective despite the pandemic. We’ve been able to facilitate ships’ crew change and ships are working with us successfully, keeping everyone safe and keeping the economy well-resourced through cargo inflow and outflow.”

Indeed, despite fears that cargo traffic would not meet its targets for the year, the Ports and Harbours Authority ended last year with its targets met.

“We’ve been able to keep ourselves healthy,” Luguje says.

Post-Pandemic Ports

Aside from the Covid, Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority has faced other challenges, although eventually all of them have their roots in the pandemic.

“Our other challenges are all essentially related to the pandemic,” Luguje observes. “It has brought in a new world order on how business is done. You have to restrict movement, slow down, follow all the necessary protocols. The process of clearing vessels has to change and that has come with additional costs. Of course, there is also the cost of providing additional support to the medical sector, the cost of investing in additional IT infrastructure to support working from home and dealing with more of our business online.”

Connected to the pandemic, countries all over the world have been seeing significant supply chain challenges.

“The supply of cargo containers slumped and all of a sudden, our shippers are having to pay twice or three times the freight cost to bring cargo into Ghana,” Luguje says. “That became a major concern. For us as a cargo port, steel prices have hiked. The cost of procuring cargo handling equipment is steep, and all of that together has been a major challenge. But we must continue to invest in the port to stay a step ahead of requirements. We are continuing to expand our ports.”

While Ghana Ports & Harbours Authority has plans to invest in the future of the country’s port infrastructure, it is also working hard to keep things going on a day-to-day basis.

“Thankfully we are surviving on a daily basis adjusting to cope with the new circumstances, and gradually that will subside, and life will return to normal,” Luguje assures us. “We are finding innovation in terms of new ways of working because of the Covid. Being able to do so comes with strategic planning, cutting costs, and reviewing existing works.”

“Even the shipping lines themselves are taking their own decisions on how to cope, offering support where there is need for multi-stakeholder collaborations so we can all prosper,” Luguje says. “We have also had very impressive support from the government of Ghana in this direction.”

The Place to Be

It is when we start talking about longer-term plans that Luguje becomes most animated. The Authority has big plans to continue to innovate in terms of improving its ways of working and cutting costs.

“We’ve been able to learn and adapt to the Covid impact, providing quality service and continuing to expand our port and improve on infrastructure,” he says. “We can now provide additional capacity in deeper berths for the bigger vessels coming in with various types of cargoes. Construction is a growing sector in Ghana, so, we have an increasing number of cement manufacturing companies building cement plants in Ghana. As a result, plans are advanced to dredge and deepen the new dry bulk cargo berth in Tema Port to 12 metres to accommodate the bigger vessels. We’re also recording increasing volumes of sugar, wheat, and steel, whose importers are using bigger vessels to achieve economies of scale.”

Indeed, in Tema Port, the new Container Terminal 3 opened to business in July 2019.

“It is a very modern terminal capable of accommodating the latest generation of container vessels. In the Port of Takoradi, we’ve already opened a new liquid bulk cargo terminal, while a modern dry bulk cargo terminal is under construction. We are also planning to develop a new modern oil and gas services terminal. It’s an ambitious future,” Luguje says. “We need to make provision for any eventualities, and we’re keeping that knowledge at the forefront of our minds.”

One of the boldest new plans is to meet government requests for a tech-focused commercial port which will be constructed on a green field in the country’s eastern corridor in the town of Keta.

“We’re now preparing to conduct an economic environmental and social impact study that will be completed this year,” says Luguje. “We also have the dry dock and shipyard which is a strong potential source of income that needs to be properly developed, and we’re looking to that.”

All of this is building on the great achievements the Port Authority has already made.

“Our flagship terminal, Terminal 3 with a 16-metre draught, is well known within the shipping community. We are the leading container hub in West Africa, handling the biggest container ships,” explains Luguje. “Anyone who wants to come into Africa, Ghana is the place to be. We’re positioning ourselves as the gateway for investment into the continent & the ports are well prepared to play our required role.”

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