The total volume of cargo handled by the country’s two seaports, Tema and Takoradi, has been predicted to drop by some 0.5m metric tonnes in the first quarter compared to a year ago, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to restrict trade and wreak havoc on global supply chains.
According to the Ghana Chamber of Shipping, the figure represents a 15 percent fall from the 3.5m metric tonnes recorded in the first quarter of 2019.
“One is wondering whether we will be able to make 3.5m metric tonnes of cargo traffic for this quarter as was attained last year,” CEO of the chamber Dr. Kofi Mbiah told Business24 in an exclusive interview.
“We are yet to get the final figures for the quarter, but we estimate that, looking at the disruptions to the supply chain, we are likely to lose about 15 percent of our previous tonnage for same period 2019.”
The chamber also predicts the impact of the coronavirus to reflect in the full year cargo traffic figure, which was a little over 20m metric tonnes in 2019.
The severity of the impact, however, is tied to how quickly the crisis would be over, with the shipping business likely to be hit harder should the crisis linger on beyond mid-year.
Dr. Mbiah indicated: “Certainly, by close of year we are likely to get some impact, though one can’t tell the exact nature. If we are out of this crisis by June, there will be some impetus towards recovery, but if we were to be in this crisis beyond this period, then we are in for trouble.”
Generally, cargo traffic to the country’s seaports has seen continuous growth over the last decade, with throughput rising from 15.1m metric tonnes in 2014 to 21.5m metric tonnes as at 2017.
There was an 8 percent increase over the 2017 figure to 23.8m metric tonnes in 2018, before it slipped to 20.8m metric tonnes in 2019.
Industry players were upbeat about a promising business year in 2020, banking on the prospects of the ultra-modern and sophisticated MPS Terminal 3 that was opened last year.
Director-General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Michael Luguje, in his outlook for the year had stated that: “In 2020, we are looking forward to doing better because Terminal 3 is going to attract more business. We think that our ports are well geared for that—Takoradi Port is coming up as an oil and gas services hub. We are expecting extraordinary performance in every industry that works with the port and the economy of Ghana itself.”
He added: “We always strive to position ourselves as the best port by offering seamless experience to persons who do business through our ports.”
Earlier projections had estimated an increase of approximately 10 percent in throughput for the first quarter of 2020, rising to around 12-15 percent by the end of 2020.
The coronavirus crisis has, however, upended all such forecasts, with the Ghanaian economy’s overall external trade and economic growth set to shrink from the earlier upbeat predictions.