The Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Michael Luguje has projected that cargo traffic for the year 2020 in Ghana’s ports would not significantly depart from previously recorded statistics despite the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the port and shipping business.
Speaking on Eye on Port, the GPHA boss indicated that barring COVID-19, Ghana’s ports were expected to handle around 30 million metric tonnes of cargo which is a 3-million-ton improvement over the 27 million recorded in 2019.
“We were going to perform much better than 2019. Usually, we look at between 5-10% growths per annum so definitely we would have been hitting close to 30 million by the end of the year.”
However, Mr. Luguje confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic affected cargo volumes handled in the country’s ports in some forms with the Port of Takoradi having been impacted more significantly.
According to the DG of GPHA, with the coronavirus pandemic affecting the oil and gas industry causing massive deflation in prices, many of the companies in the oil and gas exploration sector in Ghana ceased operations for some time. This negatively impacted the port of Takoradi which has been serving as a hub to receive oil and gas related cargo to Ghana.
“All the oil explorations that were happening, a lot of them had to cancel contracts and pack bag and baggage and leave. As a result, that affected all the supply vessels related traffic into the port and the revenue we had to generate. That traffic alone dropped by 53%,” he said.
Mr. Luguje again revealed that the Takoradi Port saw a significant drop in export cargo traffic for the first half of 2020 as a result of about four-month-long halt in manganese export through the Port of Takoradi.
“The manganese issue was about some challenges they had with government on taxes and others during the latter part of 2019, so they shut down. They were certain to come back by January-February but due to COVID-19, they didn’t come until June-July so we also saw some 50% drop in manganese exports,” he added.
In the Port of Tema, which is primarily an import-driven port, however, he said the impact of coronavirus was not seen in volumes of cargo received, but instead challenges associated with its clearance.
The Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority explained that even though the President, Nana Akufo-Addo allowed the Port Authority and relevant institutions in the port clearance chain to continue to conduct the clearance of goods with accompanying health protocols, importers were largely reluctant to comply for obvious reasons.
Due to this, the Port Authority had to waive a lot of rent charges as well as collaborate with the shipping lines to waive demurrages that accrued over the lockdown period.
Mr. Luguje projected that the peak period prior to Christmas where the port experiences an influx of imports will see the port replenish what was lost to COVID-19.
He added that that may come after the Presidential and Parliamentary elections following evidence from history.
“The business community has its own interpretations of seasons. It is normal. It always picks up very well in our country after the elections.”