Being the 1st port of call for several Liner Services in West Africa with improved handling capacity, certainly Meridian Port Services Ltd (MPS) attracted several shipping lines to put MPS Terminal 3 to the test as a potential transhipment hub and MPS has succeeded operationally and commercially to provide the expected service levels.

MPS Terminal 3 is currently running with berth occupancy in the range of 90% on the 3 new berths and the civil works on the 4th New Berth was completed back on 1st October 2021. The wharf at MPS Terminal 3 is geared with 11 STS cranes and 2 Mobile Harbour Cranes backed by 29 eRTG’s , several Reachstackers and Empty Handlers. With the envisaged increase in volumes (Gateway & Transhipment) we are gearing-up so to cater for larger capacity.

The Management of MPS simulated volume scenarios and presented to the Board of Directors an investment in additional gantry cranes (3 STS cranes and 12 eRTGs) and several ancillary container handling equipment as well as upgrading the backup power plant from 12 MVA to anywhere between 18 to 24 MVA.

Project Background and Rationale

Meridian Port Services Ltd (MPS) is a joint venture company between Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), APM Terminals and Bolloré Transport & Logistics. MPS operates the largest container terminal in Ghana if not the largest in the region. The Tema Port Expansion Project was built in line with the vision of GPHA to become the Gateway and a Hub Port within the Sub Region.

Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority and Meridian Port Services Ltd had a successful partnership in the development and implementation of Terminal 2 within the existing Tema Port facility and as the need arose to increase capacity to handle larger vessels; MPS and GPHA embarked again on developing and transforming the Port of Tema into a Hub Port.

MPS has built and currently operating the dedicated container terminal (MPS Terminal 3) in Tema Port. The new MPS Terminal 3 has increased the container handling capacity and capabilities along with the investment in cutting edge equipment, technology and digitalisation where it is widely recognised as a world-class actor in the port industry.

The container receipt & delivery at Tema Port is currently running 24/7 throughout the year (except on Good Friday and Christmas days).  The digitalization of processes at the Port (in line with the Government’s call for a Paperless Port System) has been completed and there is a seamless flow of transactions online after the Ministry of Trade and the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority spearheaded the implementation of the ICUMS platform with dedicated support from MPS who brought shipping lines, terminals and the Authorities including GPHA together to implement a rigorous process at Terminal 3 to ensure that the revenues and security of the Port of Tema are well protected.

The investment in waterfront and yard cranes, standby electricity generating plants, scanners and training of personnel has given Tema Port “especially Terminal 3” the capacity to receive larger vessels and provide high service levels for the shipping lines to decrease turnaround times for them thereby decreasing their cost of doing business and facilitating trade.

The efforts put in so far with the support of the Customs Division of GRA and the Ministry of Trade & Industry have created opportunities for a more integrated trade economy in Africa and in effect solidify Ghana’s contribution to the continent’s role in the global logistics chain.

Strategic Considerations

Having completed the first phase of the Tema Port Expansion Project, Terminal 3 is taking the lead by having a better capacity to serve the Shipping Lines who see efficiency as key in the choice of ports of call and MPS has become a 1st port of call for many of the major shipping lines in the world.

Being the 1st port of call with improved handling capacity and a comparative advantage with the world-renowned transhipment hubs; MPS Terminal 3 has put Ghana on the map in the maritime sector thus making a strong case for recognition as the hub of West Africa. 

There is no congestion at Terminal 3 because of increased capacity whilst there is significant queuing in other ports in West Africa, so the shipping lines are keen on negotiations with MPS to set targets on service levels to enable them use MPS as a hub within the sub-region. Other Ports in the West African sub-region are also keenly developing their capacity, so time is of the essence in ensuring that negotiations and contracts are concluded to attract the trade to Ghana on time. MPS has started with some shipping lines on trial basis whilst others are still waiting to see that there is an established regime to protect the transhipment trade, and this is very key.

With such enhanced marine infrastructure capacity, Ghana has been positioned to compete with other countries within the Sub-Region to attract trade and investments into Ghana. Being one of the strongest emerging economies in West Africa (2nd largest) with a sturdy growth rate and burgeoning youthful population, many industrial companies have taken advantage and started to set up shop in Ghana to prepare for their penetration into the wider African market. The emerging Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) is bound to be a game changer for the model maritime nation.

From the onset the management and directors of MPS embarked on marketing Terminal 3’s efficiency and positioned the terminal as the emerging transhipment hub on the western coast of Africa and the figures are promising.

Commercial Considerations

Shipping Lines have traditionally provided transhipment entirely on an ad-hoc basis in Ghana and have not harnessed the opportunity for Ghana’s trade connectivity. However, MPS has created considerable transhipment capacity to the Lines at Terminal 3 and the situation is changing but there is a lot more to be done. MPS now schedules to continue transhipment with several shipping lines during 2022 (and beyond) following the successful trials to tranship traffic from the Far-East to South America switching services/vessels at MPS Terminal 3.

Almost all the Liner direct services (from the Far East, Middle East, Mediterranean and North Europe) into Tema Port’s Terminal 3 are transhipping some of the West African traffic at MPS T3 destined to Benin, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, as well as transhipping refrigerated fruit containers from Cape Town between South Africa and Europe and the cross-Atlantic Trade with South America/Brazil.

New and direct trade routes are opening for Ghana and the world, for example we now have a direct trade link with the East Coast of the Americas specifically Brazil which hitherto did not exist. Further talks are ongoing with Shipping Lines to Tranship Containers at MPS Terminal 3 where larger mother vessels can dock to discharge and load and feeder vessels can be deployed to carry the transhipment containers to their final destination within West, Central Africa and beyond. This in effect reduces cost and turnaround time for the mother vessels, creates new trading routes for Ghanaian industries while increasing revenue for the state.

A virtual signing ceremony was held on Tuesday 18th January 2022 to commemorate the executing of this agreement by the CEO of MPS, Mr. Mohamed Samara, along with the President and Chairman ZPMC Mr. Liu Cheng Yun.

At a courtesy call by Management of MPS to the Ministry of Transport after the signing event, the CEO of MPS debriefed the Minister of Transport along with the executives of Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) (Chairman of the Board; Director General and Director of Port-Tema) where they expressed their pleasure about the additional investments in Ghana’s port capacity.

The CEO of MPS emphasised that several shipping lines were attracted to put MPS Terminal 3 to the test as a potential transhipment hub and MPS stood the test and therefore MPS is determined to continue providing top services and the platform to connect our clients to major shipping routes around the world. 

The Minister of Transport, Hon. Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, was delighted to note that Ghana has taken the lead in the sub-region with investments in its Ports and remarked that the country is burgeoning into a Hub with the new infrastructure, sophisticated equipment, and effective service delivery. He noted further that, other West African countries are seeing Ghana’s efforts and investing in their ports as well.

This additional investment in equipment proves further that the partners in the MPS Tema Port Expansion Project are committed to continuous improvement of services rendered to the Port Community and Ghana as a whole.  The Honourable Minister stressed on the importance of the positive socio-economic impact of such investments in the economy and encouraged MPS to continue with their good work and bring more socio-economic benefits to the nation.

Commenting on the successful partnership between GPHA and Bolloré Transport & Logistics and APM Terminals in Meridian Port Services LTD, the Director General of GPHA, Mr Michael Luguje, on his part was delighted to note that the masterplan for the development of the Port of Tema’s containerised cargo is being effectively implemented.  He commended MPS for completing the construction and equipping of the project ahead of schedule.  Mr Luguje said, “the investment in the Tema Port Expansion has so far achieved positive results and MPS’ service levels are matching the world’s best”. The Director General stated further that GPHA will continue to work together with MPS to sustain this positive outcome of their collaboration.

“The wharf at MPS Terminal 3 is currently equipped with 11 STS cranes and 2 Mobile Harbour Cranes and 29 eRTG yard cranes; with the increase in volumes (Gateway & Transhipment) we are gearing-up with 15 additional gantry cranes (3 STS and 12 eRTG) with the capacity of servicing the world’s largest container vessels to enable us to cater for the envisaged trade growth brought by the potentials of the  emerging Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA)” said Mr. Samara, the CEO of MPS.