Graphic Business News

Export growth impacts 2018 maritime trade performance

By: Maclean Kwofi
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Some containerised cargo packed at the Tema port.
Some containerised cargo packed at the Tema port.

Ghana's export trade business has recorded an impressive 24.6 per cent growth in the total volume of goods shipped to other countries through the country's two seaports.

Data from the Ghana Shippers' Authority (GSA) showed that goods exported by shippers increased from 6.14 million tonnes in 2017 to 7.66 million tonnes in 2018, an indication that aggressive industrialisation policies initiated by the government to correct the trade imbalances is already paying off.

The growth was driven by the exportation of goods such as value added cocoa products, raw cocoa beans, equipment, cashew nut, manganese and petroleum products.

The 7.66 million tonnes of seaborne exports for 2018 went to various destinations in the world . Majority of these exports went to the Far East which received a total of 3.9 million tonnes representing 52 per cent.

Impact of CTN
On the other hand, total goods shipped for the period increased by approximately eight per cent to 23.13 million tonnes but failed to meet the 10 per cent target set for the year.

Although cargo throughput for 2018 posted a growth of about eight per cent, there was a slow trend in the third and fourth quarters of 2018.

This could be attributed to uncertainty that surrounded the introduction of the cargo tracking note (CTN) and other policies which saw some trade unions shutting down their operations in protest.

But it is important to note that while exports experienced growth in the period under review, imports on the other hand recorded a low growth of 1.2 per cent, that is from 14.16 million tonnes in 2017 to 14.33 million tonnes in 2018.

The Chief Executive Officer of the GSA, Ms Benonita Bismarck, at the shipping quarter and outlook last month in Accra, stated that it was the authority's exportation that while these policies mature and stabilise, no new ones would be introduced in the short term.

"Communication of the policy has been problematic as it is not too clear whether it is mandatory or a reprieve period has been offered for non-compliance.

"It is important that the positions are made clear to ensure predictability for shippers," she said.

She added that CTN must not only be seen as a tool for revenue assurance, as it could also facilitate trade and provide authentic trade data for effective planning by policy makers.

Port share
Cargo throughput for the Tema Port was 15.50 million tonnes representing 67 per cent of the total seaborne trade, while the Takoradi Port recorded 7.62 million tones representing 33 per cent of the total seaborne trade.

Total transit volume for the three landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger amounted to 996,969 tonnes in 2018. This represented a decline of 3.2 per cent compared to 2017.

The transit trade comprised imports of 879,935 tonnes and exports of 87,034 tonnes for 2018. Major transit trade commodities included iron/steel/pipes, processed food/beverages, manganese sheanuts and cashew nuts.

Global outlook
The World Bank predicts global economic growth to slow to 2.9 per cent in 2019 while the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Outlook Indicator for 2019 projects trade growth to slow to 3.7 per cent in 2019.

These are largely attributed to trade protectionism, tight conditions and the ongoing trade war between the two of the biggest world economies, United States of America (USA) and China.

China’s economy grew by just 6.6 per cent in 2018 compared to about 10.4 per cent in 2017. Being one of the major trading countries in the world, China's slow economic growth is likely to hold a negative impact on the global maritime industry and consequently Ghana’s domestic economic situation.

It is worthy of notice that the Far East holds the largest share of Ghana's international trade and China's share alone accounts for over 75 per cent.

National outlook
Ms Bismarck observed that the global outlook had always had a direct impact on Ghana's international trade performance.

However, she said local policies and programmes had tended to propel Ghana's trade growth higher than the global averages.

She stated that prospects for continued growth in the export sector were very bright in the wake of government aggressive industrial policy.

Consequently, Ms Bismarck announced the authority's projection for the overall cargo throughput growth of 10 per cent for the year 2019.

"This is also premised on the expectation that the introduction of the First Port Rule for the transit trade would be well managed in order not to deflect transit cargo to neighbouring ports."

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