Ghana’s maritime cargo traffic dropped for the first time in six years as the coronavirus pandemic slowed economic activity and caused a fall in the country’s merchandise international trade.
According to data released by the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, cargo throughput fell from 27.7m tonnes in 2019 to 26.4m in 2020, a reduction of 1.3m tonnes, or 4.7 percent, and the first annual drop in seaborne tonnage since 2014.
The fall was driven by a steep decline—as much as 31.5 percent—in export cargo, which was partly offset by an 8.8 percent increase in import cargo together with higher transhipment and transit trade volumes. Export cargo contracted from 10m tonnes in 2019 to 6.8m tonnes in 2020, according to the data, while imports jumped from 16.2m tonnes to 17.7m tonnes in the period.
The volume of cargo that was transhipped through the country’s ports—that is, cargo offloaded onto other vessels for further shipment—quadrupled from 86,813 tonnes to 366,718 tonnes, while transit cargo—that is, cargo headed for neighbouring countries—grew by 9.7 percent from 1.36m tonnes to approximately 1.5m tonnes.
The data also revealed that the Tema and Takoradi ports experienced divergent fortunes in 2020: whereas traffic through Tema improved by 9.2 percent from 17.3m tonnes to 18.9m tonnes, traffic through Takoradi fell by 28 percent from 10.4m tonnes to 7.5m tonnes.
Takoradi’s marked reduction in tonnage was due to the slump in export cargo, since the port usually handles more exports than Tema. In 2019, exports routed through Takoradi amounted to 7.5m tonnes, but this plunged by 41.3 percent to 4.4m tonnes last year.
Analysts said the fall in maritime traffic, though not unexpected, did not reach the depths that were feared, with import traffic especially resilient to the economic disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The forecast for seaborne trade is for a recovery in 2021, in line with the anticipated resurgence of the economy as the effects of the pandemic wane.