File photo: Cargo ShipmentClick to read all about coronavirus → The total volume of laden containers handled by the two seaports—Tema and Takoradi— rose by 12.6 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020, despite the Covid-induced restrictions and disruptions to trade and supply chains, according to the Bank of Ghana’s (BoG) Real Sector Developments Report for the period. Container traffic for the first quarter registered 166,685 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) compared with 148,022 TEUs for the corresponding period of last year. In March alone, when Covid-19 broke out in Ghana, total container traffic was 58,816 TEUs, 18.1 percent higher than the February throughput of 49,800 TEUs and 7.6 percent more on a year-on-year basis. The data suggest that the virus pandemic scarcely affected the fortunes of the maritime sector during the first quarter. Though the BoG data did not give the equivalent traffic in terms of tonnage, it is likely that also went up over the first quarter of 2019, when 3.5m metric tonnes of containers were handled by the two seaports. This is because the higher container volume in the first quarter of 2020 would generally correspond to improved traffic in terms of tonnage. The impressive first quarter results of the maritime sector can partly be attributed to the government’s decision to allow port activities to go ahead despite the restrictions imposed on the country as part of efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. The BoG data defied the projections of some industry analysts that the disruptions to global supply chains would have dire implications on the country’s shipping business. The Ghana Chamber of Shipping, for instance, had predicted a 15 percent fall from the 3.5m metric tonnes recorded in the first quarter of 2019. “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,” CEO of the chamber Dr. Kofi Mbiah told Business24 in an exclusive interview in March. If the same rate of growth in container traffic seen in the first quarter of 2020 is maintained for the rest of the year, then it is predictable that total traffic for this operational year will be higher than that of 2019, in spite of the raging virus pandemic. This could shore up overall economic activity, which, in the wake of the pandemic, has been forecast to experience an unprecedented slump in 2020. 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. At the end of 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.
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