Only a third out of the 464,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers exported through the country’s two seaports between 2015 and 2017 were loaded with goods, the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) assessment has identified.
The rest of the containers, representing 75 per cent, were shipped empty to destinations where they were most needed across the world to countries such as China, America, and Europe.
The trend, the Director General of the GPHA, Mr Paul Ansah, said showed that the country’s trade was heavily balanced against exports with the total traffic through the ports over the last three years growing at an average rate of 11.7 per cent increasing from 16.88 million tonnes in 2015 to about 22 million tonnes in 2017.
Domestic traffic, he said, also followed the same trend increasing from 16 million tonnes in 2015 to 21 million tonnes in 2017 growing at an average rate of 11 per cent.
Container traffic has also been growing at an average rate of 8.4 per cent increasing from 841,000 TEU in 2015 to one million TEU in 2017.
Reversing the trend
To help reverse the trend, Mr Ansah observed that the GPHA was undertaking a number of initiatives to help revive the export sector in the country.
In an interview with the GRAPHIC BUSINESS at a forum in Accra, he said, something critical needed to be done to reverse the trend in a move to improve the export sector.
Although the country’s ports were undergoing development, including the US$1.5 billion Tema Port expansion, he said if the country did not position itself well, it would not be able to maximise the benefits in the development.
“We are expanding the capacity of the country’s ports not necessarily to attract imports but to accommodate exports that the economy will generate.
“So pending the completion of the expansion works at Tema and Takoradi ports, we have decided to take leadership in the export sector to lead with interventions that will accelerate the growth of the sector,” he said.
In line with that, the Director General stated that the GPHA had deliberately reduced its exports tariff than imports to help encourage more exports.
“For instance, even with the recent increases in ports charges, the authority did not touch exports at all, in some cases, so that we encourage that sector,” he stated.
Mr Ansah indicated that the GPHA was willing to provide accommodation to bring Exim Bank closer to the port community in order to collaborate.
That, he said, was part of a move to ensure intermodal linkage to and from the ports and building strategic partnerships with relevant stakeholders to grow Ghana’s export.
“Whatever assistance we will offer Ghana Freezones to ensure that our country becomes an attractive export processing destination, we are ready to partner with them, just as everybody is here to partner with each other with a common goal to achieve,” he added.
In this regard, he said the GPHA had invited all the actors in the export sector to interrogate the trend of the country’s exports with the aim of developing an integrated strategy between private sector agencies and their public sector counterparts.
“This, the GPHA believe will help change the trend to ensure that the deficit in the balance of trade is reversed: this including meeting all exporters at the GPHA to help mitigate their challenges.”
He said the authority also planned to meet with export-related agencies in the country to design a five years development integrated strategic plan to help support the sector.
“All the export strategies that are gathering dust at the various agencies will be relooked at to develop a comprehensive document which would help improve the sector within the shortest possible time,” he added. — GB