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Ghana’s Tema port flaunts ambition

By Thibaud Teillard
Posted on Monday, 1 April 2019 13:04

Ghana's main port, Tema, is getting a boost through new investment. (AP Photo/ Christian Thompson)

Tema – to the east of Ghana's capital, Accra – is launching new port facilities in June that will rival big installations in Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Togo.

With a deeper draught that can accommodate bigger ships, it will provide tougher competition to ports like Lomé, Abidjan and Cotonou.

Who is behind the Tema deal?

  • The consortium Meridian Port Services (MPS) includes France’s Bolloré Ports (35%), APM Terminals (35%) – owned by the Denmark-based Maersk Group – and the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (30%).
  • MPS’s concession will end in September and it will hand the government back the container terminal it has managed since 2007.

Tema container terminal’s strengths

  • Main clients include CMA CGM, Maersk and PIL.
  • Traffic reached 836,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2018, representing 90% of Tema’s container volume. It is Ghana’s top port.
  • It is the third-busiest port in West Africa, behind Lagos and the combined forces of Lomé Container Terminal and Togo Terminal.

Tema’s weaknesses include the fact that it has a draught of just 11.5m and can only receive container ships with a capacity of 5,500 TEUs. The most modern ships have at least twice that capacity.

MPS’s big ambitions

The consortium is investing more than $1bn in a new terminal to meet the needs of the growing Ghanaian economy and the sub-region.

Olivier de Noray, managing director of Bolloré Ports, says the new terminal is: “A project that strengthens port capacity in West Africa and represents a new stage in the development of intra-African logistics”.

The new terminal is scheduled to start operations on 28 June with two berths, 600 m long, plus a small tugboat berth, with a capacity of 1m TEUs per year. MPS also plans a third berth – at 1,100m long – for the end of the first quarter of 2020 and a fourth berth – at 1,400m – at the end of 2020. The terminal will then be able to process more than 2m TEUs per year.

Playing their parts

  • China Harbour Engineering Company is completing the maritime aspects, like the quay and the protective dike.
  • France’s Eiffage is building the electricity infrastructure and the terminal itself.
  • Local firm Consul Ghana is constructing the terminal’s buildings.

Landlocked longings

  • Countries on the West African coasts want to serve markets in the interior. “These modern terminals [like Tema] are driving the market upwards because shipowners do not like to send ships with 15m draught to an area where there is only one port capable of receiving them,” explains Bolloré’s Olivier de Noray.
  • De Noray adds: “The growth of volumes in the region requires a global vision of logistics capacity, from the port area to the final consignee. In 2018, containerised volumes in West and Central Africa grew by around 10%. Our conservative forecast is for an average of 3% to 5% growth for our African ports in 2019. This means that the supply chain capacities of coastal countries and corridors to the hinterland must be regularly adapted.”
  • The Tema port hub will create an additional option for serving landlocked countries such as Niger and Burkina Faso.
  • But intraregional trade depends on infrastructure that is currently inadequate. The challenge for operators is to establish a good connection to the hinterland. “There are fewer and fewer countries served exclusively by a single port,” notes De Noray.

Tema’s trade links

  • The new terminal is accompanied by major road works on the 30km linking the infrastructure to Accra.
  • The Ghanaian government also wants to improve the railway line from Tema.

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.

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