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Ports increasingly busy as economy grows

Interview - February 28, 2012
Nestor Percy Galley, Director-General of the Ports & Harbours Authority, discusses his organisation's role in Ghana's future development

According to the World Bank, Ghana is poised to become the fastest-growing economy in Sub-Saharan Africa. What does that mean for you and the ports sector?
Economic growth means an increase in traffic. This necessitates the enhancement of the existing infrastructure to accommodate the higher flow of traffic. Otherwise, we would have congestion in the ports.  
How are you working with the other governmental entities  to integrate the transportation system?
There is a need to integrate road, rail and river transport. As you know, there is a plan to link the Tema Port to Lake Volta, allowing cargo to be transported through the lake. From there, it goes to the port to be transported by road to the Sahelian countries up North. We also have another rail-road project for the Eastern Corridor and the Western Corridor. This should create a linkage for the Sahelian countries. 

The railway and Lake Volta projects should take a lot of the traffic off the roads. They are cheaper and friendlier to the environment. Having them would also improve road safety, by reducing the number of old cargo trucks on the main avenues. 
How would you evaluate Ghana’s chances of becoming a regional hub?
We need a good plan, and we need to follow that plan through.

Ghana has a sound legal system and a genuinely democratic government. It is easily one of the more stable countries in the Southern region. Apart from its strong pool of human resources, general security is good. These are some of the things that make traveling to Ghana cheaper and safer compared to other countries in the Southern region.  

With regards to the transportation sector, we believe in developing the capacity to manage the transportation facilities more efficiently. If we can get our facilities in place, we would have achieved our major objective of moving people and cargo in and out of the country. This would open up the economy and establish stronger linkages with our neighbours. Once we integrate our transportation system, we can connect to the different parts of the country and the region easily. By getting all these things in place, we can become a veritable hub for the region, and win the respect of our neighbors and the international community.
Which countries are Ghana’s biggest competitors?
Côte d'Ivoire and Abidjan are two of Ghana’s biggest competitors in the region. 
What are some of Ghana’s competitive advantages?
We are setting ourselves apart from the rest when it comes to technology. We have the machinery to deliver. However, our strength does not only lie in equipment and technology. Aspects such as work attitude and customer relations are also very important.

You would be interested to know that our container terminal in Tema is ranked as one of the most productive in the continent by Maersk Line.

We have the hardware and the personnel to deliver the services. If we expand our equipment and facilities a bit further, we would have no problems meeting the competition in the Southern region.   
GPHA signed about US$500 million worth of upgrades for Takoradi and US$700 million for Tema. In addition to that, there is also the Boankra Inland Port. How would these ports make Ghana attractive as an investment destination?
As a result of the natural resources and other prospects for development that foreign investors see in the country, we have had a proposal to set up a third port. The feasibility studies have already been carried out. We have plans of modernizing and expanding our facilities.

For instance, we have a container terminal with the capacity to handle about 500,000 TEUs. Last year, we did about 750,000 TEUs. This made us realize the need to open up a new terminal to ease the congestion in the existing one. It would also prepare us for the intensification of the oil exploration activities. Ghana, as you know, has been projected to produce millions of oil barrels per day in four years’ time (a significant increase from the 150,000 barrels that we have per day). If we expand our capacity, we will be prepared to handle the increasing flow of traffic these oil exploration activities are bound to bring. 
President John Evans Atta Mills is adamant about seeking further private investment and veering away from the reliance on government funds. How would you evaluate the level of German investor activity in the country?
Germany is a technologically advanced country. However, recent developments in the Far East resulted in Germany losing some market share. Here, you can see a lot of products from South Korea, Japan and China. I think the Germans need to intensify their activities to increase their presence in the country.   
Can you tell us about GPHA’s social initiatives?
We have carried out an environmental audit and come up with an environmental management plan. We are promoting what we would call a ‘green port’ policy. This seeks to mitigate the impact of our operations on the environment, reducing the occurrence of marine pollution, noise pollution, air pollution, and so on. We try to make sure that our activities do not gravely impact the water quality in the area.

Fishing, as you know, is one of the major sources of income for the country. We want to make sure that we do not jeopardize the livelihood of our local fishermen by compromising the quality of the water in the surrounding areas. We have research facilities to help us in this regard.

We are also looking into better electronic waste (e-waste) management. Recently, we sent a team to Holland for training on e-waste management.

In terms of air, we are coming with policies on emission control to preserve the quality of air coming out of the ports. We have imposed a penalty for violators to discourage people from going against the green policies we have set forth.

There is a saying that “when the last tree dies, the last man dies.” To help the environment flourish, we are planting trees around the port area. Apart from improving the landscape, the trees will help absorb some of the carbon dioxide in the area.

By ensuring the health of the environment, we, in our own way, guarantee the health of our employees. Our operations are such that nobody will get sick because of poor environmental management. This works of the people in the surrounding communities, as well.

These are just some of the things that we have been doing to make sure that our operations remain ecologically sound. 
Austerity measures in the European markets are driving investments to the frontier and emerging markets. However, many of them are unsure of what to expect from this region. What would you tell them about Ghana?
Ghana is on top of its game. We are driven, motivated, hard-working and skilled in what we do. We recognize that we each have a role to play, and we do our best to accomplish what is on our plate.

Ghana has a skilled workforce, many of whom have been trained overseas. With regards to our facilities, we are managing them competently.

The country’s stringent and fair legal system ensures a stable political, social and economic environment. Investments are safe here. The business climate is stable, and promises good returns on investments. If you look at our growth rate, it is at 12% to 13.4% per year, which is quite a feat, considering that other countries are struggling to obtain even a single digit of growth.    
Certain stereotypes exist in terms of country perception. What sort of leader is required to change these stereotypes?
To drive change, you must be open-minded. You must listen to the beliefs of others. You must be committed to the change you envision and provide good leadership.

Immerse yourself in the true conditions of the country to get a better appreciation of what you are trying to achieve.

Articulate your beliefs to the people so that they would understand the direction you are heading.

Be proud of your achievements as they would boost the morale of your people.   
What message would you like to convey to the readers of the Financial Times Deutschland?
Come to Ghana and see what is happening. You will pleasantly surprised.