COVID-19: Cargo throughput risks massive decline – GIFF President

Ghana’s ports risk a massive decline in cargo throughput if the COVID-19 outbreak is not brought under control, President of the Ghana Institute of Freight Forwarders (GIFF), Edward Akrong, has said. While expressing this concern, he indicated that the ports recorded 20.1 million tonnes of throughput for 2019, with 3.5 million tonnes recorded in the first quarter.

Earlier projections estimated an increase of approximately 10 percent in throughput for the first quarter of 2020, rising to around 12-15 percent by the end of 2020.

Director General of the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA), Michael Luguje, assessing the ports’ performance in 2019 described it as a productive year despite the numerous challenges that confronted the maritime industry.

“Looking at January to November 2019 figures, we are fortunate to see Tema’s total throughput growing by 5 percent compared to the year 2018; and Takoradi Port by about 21 percent, compared to 2018.”

According to him, while activities at the ports have not been adversely impacted by the pandemic so far, if conditions persist for another month or two there will be significant implications for all stakeholders.

“Currently, business at the port is normal because shipments that had been made earlier are coming through; so, we are still receiving containers and throughput is normal,” he told the B&FT.

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Highlighting the impact of decreased production and limited travel, especially to China, Mr. Akrong said: “We won’t feel it so much now, but give me this month-ending and April and you will have a feel because they haven’t traveled for business in a while; and as such throughput is going to take a hit, cargos coming in are going to be fewer”.

He stated categorically that once this happens, it might have ripple-effects on pricing in the system and create delays in delivery. He indicated that some importers that had shipped their goods by mid-February have complained of their inability to access some vital documents, as a number of courier services have suspended their services.

“I tried to do some online orders on Ali Express; things that you could expect to have in two weeks or less, they were actually quoting 37 to 57 days. Even on Ali Express, that was when I began to realise the effect of COVID-19,” he noted

He nonetheless entreated traders to adopt doing business online rather than travelling, adding that the freight forwarders are there to assist them in that direction.

Paperless system

Mr. Akrong mentioned that the paperless system is a blessing as it will ensure minimum contact during transactions, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic as some members of staff will work from home without human interaction.

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