Ghana’s Third Largest Port Project Could Double Cargo Capacity, But Its Takeoff is Shaky

Site for Keta Port

Accra, Ghana//-Ghana’s third largest commercial port, Keta Sea Port may take more years than expected to come on stream or may not even come alive.

Although the project, when completed, could double the country’s cargo capacity which currently stands at about 60,000 TEUs, it is facing a myriad of challenges.


Apart from the governing New Patriotic Party’s unilateral decision to announce the project without the buy-in of other political parties, the current economic climate is not good for the project.

The country is currently going through a severe economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing Russia and Ukraine war, government’s mismanagement, and excessive borrowing.

Due to these, most ongoing government projects and programmes have been put on hold, while new ones like the Keta Sea Port project may not come on stream.

The government in its 2023 budget did not say anything about the project which many experts described as a game-changer.

Since the announcement of plans to undertake the Keta Sea Port project in 2019 and the subsequent appointment of Dr Alexander Adusei, a Ohio State University trained lawyer as the Chief Executive Officer of the yet to set up Keta Sea Port, construction work of the project has not begun.

Maritime map of Keta basin

Also, as the country goes to the polls next year, the government which is the sole financier of the project will shift attention to minor projects in the urban and rural areas to win votes.

The coming on board of the project when there is a change of government is too slim. Similar projects dotted across the length and breadth of Ghana have been abandoned due to change of government.

Several deadlines missed

While several deadlines to commence the construction work of the project have not materialized.

For instance, in November 2021, Ghana’s Minister for Transport, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah assured stakeholders that the Keta Sea Port project was going to take off in the quarter of 2022.

Also in June 2022, the same minister said that plans were underway to develop the country’s third commercial port in Keta, in the Volta Region.

At the time of going to the press, the only tangible thing that is seen on the project site is a big signboard which reads: “Site for Keta Sea Port: Keep Off”.

Keta port’s potential

The Keta port can generate direct and induced business revenue estimated at over $2 billion, a qualitative impact on the manufacturing, commercial and services sectors, and a multiplier effect over 10 times the cost of construction.

It will attract a massive influx of people, businesses, and investment into that part of the country.

The port, if completed , will support the industrial, fishing and upcoming Voltaian Basin petrochemical industry. It is also expected to attract investment in the range of over $5 billion in the first few years.

Apart from creating several thousands of jobs for the youth, the Keta port would reduce congestion at the older ports in Takoradi and Tema and help recover the lost traffic from Lome Port in nearby Togo.

The port also positions Ghana to optimise the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

How significant is the project

The multi-million-dollar Keta Sea Port project is going to be the game-changer for the development of the Volta and Oti regions as feasibility studies confirm its economic viability.

The port project is close to Ghana’s Volta River when completed will expand on the country’s plans to develop port infrastructure, expand the existing ports of Tema and Takoradi and speed up the development of the proposed inland ports at Boankra and Mpakadan.

The first phase of the project also known as the ‘Port Nuclues’ is estimated at $600million and would consist of main facilities which would also be the key drivers of the port which is a commercial one.

These facilities comprise a commercial port gate with the access control and administration building, multipurpose terminal with a berth of 500 metres and a RoRo Dock, oil terminal consisting of tank farm and an oil jetty.

The other facilities are a shipyard with a dedicated basin for floating docks and vessel maintenance, fishing port and related amenities, small craft services and access roads.

Discussions critical to the commencement of the project had gone far and the procurement processes were expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2022. However, checks indicated that these processes are still ongoing.

Although the government is committed to the realisation of the project and it is doing everything possible to bring it to life, industry watchers cast doubts about the project.

The project engineer for the Keta Sea Port, Komla Ofori is reported to have said that the feasibility study so far had proven that the project is technically and financially viable. However, its take off is shaky because of the numerous challenges outlined earlier.

Keta port project’s feasibility study findings

Furthermore, the sector minister who announced the findings of the Keta port project’s feasibility study in November 2021 at a stakeholder meeting in Accra, organized by Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA).

These were the findings:

  • The Keta Port should accommodate containerized, bulk, and oil and gas shipments. A shipyard facility is also planned.
  • The port will be developed in phases.
  • Private investors call to partner with GPHA for project implementation.
  • The project will include the entire Port City, including all road and rail infrastructure along with residential recreational facilities.
  • The Ghanaian navy to establish a Coast Guard post because of anticipated oil exploration activities.
  • An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the site is of priority because of the ecologically sensitive nature of the location.
  • GPHA will carry out a social and environmental impact assessment in 2022. This will be followed by an investor/developer search. This assessment is yet to be done.

Mr Asiamah said: “A project of this nature is highly capital intensive and government on its own, may not be able to finance it all, hence the need for the involvement of the private sector.

I am informed that some companies have already expressed some interest in participating in the port development. I, therefore, look forward to the other private sector interests in this project.”

He added that “the project will be a game-changer for the economic livelihoods of the Volta and Oti regions.”

Addressing the concerns that the port project is unduly delayed, the Director-General of the GPHA, Michael Luguje, said: “We have seen that it is a port that is feasible, viable and attractive.

If you all go back into the history of many ports, including here in Ghana, you would realise that none of the ports was built based on immediate first- and second-year high profitability. It is a very progressive journey towards building the port.”

Ghana’s port history

Port of Tema

Tema Harbour or port is in Tema in the southeastern part of Ghana, along the Gulf of Guinea. The port is a member of the International Association of Ports and Harbours (IAPH).

The construction of the port was proposed by British Colonial Officers in the Gold Coast before its independence.

It was an old fishing village called Torman and was the proposed site for the port’s construction. The rapid industrialisation that followed Ghana’s independence in 1957 led to the town adopting the name Tema from that of the fishing village.

Tema Port, Ghana

After independence, under the leadership of Ghana’s first president Dr Kwame Nkrumah, the construction of the port began in the 1950s with planning led by the award-winning city planner and the first Ghanaian architect, Theodore S. Clerk and was commissioned in 1962.

Tema port is the biggest and the premier port of Ghana. It spans 3.9 million sq m and receives about 1650 ships every year including container ships, general cargo laden vessels, tankers, ro-ro, and some cruise ships.

The port, which is strategically located, only 30 km away from the capital city of Accra, deals with general cargo, heavy dry and liquid bulk and imported vehicles.

It handles about 12 million tonnes of cargo annually, including petroleum, cement, aluminium goods, and textiles.

This port handles more than 80% Ghana’s international maritime trade and serves as a logistics hub in the region by offering various services.

The government has recently expanded the port further to make it the most important trading hub in the West African region.

Port of Takoradi

The port of Takoradi is in western Ghana and was the country’s first commercial port that became operational as early as 1928 to cater to the needs of the mining sector and to deal with imported consumer products.

Takoradi, which holds a very crucial position in the region, is only 230 km from Accra.

Takoradi Port

The Takoradi port as it is known, is well linked to the rest of Ghana especially the northern and central regions and handles a large amount of trade with neighbouring landlocked countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

It is Ghana’s second busiest port after the port of Tema. This port handled 66% of exports and 19% of imports and has seen significant expansion since then.

It has 6 berths apart from separate berths for manganese and bauxite and one oil berth. Their draughts are between 8.4 m to 10 m respectively. All these are multipurpose berths and can handle ro-ro.

Takoradi port deals with a variety of exports such as manganese, bauxite, forest products, bagged cocoa beans and mining equipment. Imports include clinker, wheat, petroleum goods and containerized cargo.

World-famous and reliable shipping lines such as Maersk, Grimaldi, MSC, Delmas, and CMA CGM operate at this port.

The port is actively supported by the private sector that provides smooth and reliable services.

Oil was discovered about 70 nautical miles from Takoradi port in 2007. Due to the port’s proximity to the oil fields, it aided in the transfer of oil as many oil vessels dock at this port to load and discharge oil, chemical supplies and other goods that are kept in the port’s warehouses.

Port of Saltpond

The Port of Saltpond is a deep-seaport in the South of Ghana situated in the town of Saltpond. It is near the Gulf of Guinea and has an anchorage depth of 12.5 to 13.8 m approximately. The depth of the oil terminal is more than 23. 2 m. The depth of the water channel is 76 feet.

Port of Saltpond

It is a very small port and has an open roadstead harbour. The Port’s shelter is in a bad condition and requires maintenance. It can handle only small vessels usually from neighbouring regions and not international shipments. It mainly handles small amounts of general cargo and logistic services.

Old Port of Sekondi

The old Sekondi port is situated in Southern Ghana near the Gulf of Guinea. It is a medium-sized port and usually deals with offshore supply vessels.

Vessels measuring around 130 feet can conveniently dock at this port. The maximum draught at this port is 7.1 m and the deadweight is 13227 tonnes. It usually handles two or three vessels in a day and is not a very busy port.

Old Port of Sekondi

This port is also called Sekondi-Takoradi since Sekondi-Takoradi became one city in 1963. Sekondi has forts built by the Dutch and the British. The region flourished after a railroad was built in the 1900s to get access to the goldfields.

In 1928, the port of Takoradi was opened and so the old port of Sekondi receives much less commercial maritime traffic. The old Sekondi port is now used for fishing mainly and a naval station is located nearby.

Port of Elmina

Elmina is a small-sized port facility that mainly deals with marine goods. Situated in Southern Ghana, this port also receives many tourist ships as Elmina is also an important tourist destination. The water depth is quite low so only small fishing vessels are catered at this port.

The Elmina fishing project was inaugurated in 2020 and Ghana’s President said that would boost the fishing sector in Elmina and Ghana. Fishing is one of the important sectors in the nation’s economy that employs 20% of people, especially locals.

Port of Elmina

The Elmina port now has a decent infrastructure and would lead to the growth of the fishing sector, cut on post-harvest losses and make Ghana self-sufficient in the long term as it would reduce fish imports drastically.

Port of Accra

Accra Port is a deep seaport located in the Gulf of Guinea in Ghana. It is a medium-sized port that hardly sees any cargo traffic.

It was once a strategic port facility for the Portuguese in the 17th century but due to surfing, the maritime traffic declined, and it shifted to the Port of Tema, which is nearby and now the premier port of the country.

Port of Accra

Bottom line

Ghana commands a leadership position in the West African sub-region and Africa as a whole.

It is the second most populated country in West Africa after Nigeria. It is also the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence from the British on 6th March 1957.

It is rich in natural resources such as gold, manganese, bauxite, and lately huge hydrocarbon deposits.

Ghana is famous for its diverse range of crops and agro-based products that are widely exported. Most importantly, the nation is a major producer of the finest cocoa and ranks among the second highest cocoa producer nations in the world.

Ghana shares its border with the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean in the south and so most of the agricultural produce is exported through the six strategic seaports that handle the country’s international maritime trade.

Ghana’s Ports are a major contributor to its economy. The Government of Ghana aims to achieve the status of ‘a developed nation’ by 2029 and has revamped the port infrastructure and undertaken many port projects.

Ghana’s ports play an important role in building its economy and infrastructure. They also generate employment in the country and bring in much-needed revenue through profitable international maritime trade.

By Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh, African Eye Report