Gateway To Ghana: Official Opening Of Tema Harbour
Tema, February 10, 1962
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
It is a happy coincidence that the formal opening of Tema Harbour, which is destined to be the new industrial gateway to Ghana, should take place so soon after the completion of the negotiation and the inauguration of the VoIta River Project. In a sense, of course, the construction of Tema harbour is a part of that project. Prom the very beginning, we realized that if an aluminium industry, such as we envisaged, was to be established, it would require the provision of a modern port which was conveniently situated to serve not only the needs of the Volta River Project, but also, the growing and varied needs of the economy of Ghana generally.
Takoradi harbour, which was opened in 1928, has until now been the main port of Ghana, but in spite of extensions that have been made to it, it is still difficult for it to cope speedily and efficiently with the ever increasing volume of trade. What has been needed for several years is a second deep-water port to handle heavy cargoes which are destined for the eastern part of the country. This new port of Tema, therefore, will not only be able to relieve the congestion of traffic at Takoradi, but also assist greatly in the rapid distribution of imports.
From time immemorial, a great proportion of our imports and exports have been handled at Accra, and at other places along our shores, by the surf boats. The time is fast approaching when this picturesque but hazardous method of handling our cargoes will become a thing of the past. It is important, however that this traditional and vital period of our history should be preserved — preserved not as some carved monument gathering dust in a museum, but as a living tribute to the outstanding skill and courage of our boat boys and the part they have played in our economic development. As soon as Accra harbour ceases to function, therefore, I propose to convert the whole of that area into a pleasure and recreation centre with every amenity for enjoyment and relaxation. I propose moreover that a regatta be held once or twice a year, and that boat races and other water sports are held, when silver cups and other trophies will be competed for.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let me assure you of one thing: Dreams can come true! Ten years ago, I wandered about here along with my driver one evening, thinking and planning, dreaming and hoping. Life was not so easy then; for instance, there were no roads near here and I had to do a considerable amount of walking to reach where I wanted to be. I remember that evening so clearly. It was the sort of evening, in fact that could not fail to inspire one, the sea lapped lazily against the rocks, a cool but gentle breeze was blowing and the sun was setting in the west with a flush of fiery red.
So real was the harbour that I built around myself that time that evening, that I imagined I could hear the screams of the winches, the sirens of ships, the clammer and chatter of men at work, and the shunting of trains. But I had one problem. Should my baby be born in Tema or Ada? It turned out to be an eve: bigger problem than I had first envisaged, because I hadn’t reckoned with Nii Ocansey and his delegation of Party members from Ada! They too had visions and one day when I attended a function in this area, I was met by a sea of placards which read: "Ada Harbour." Even the seat that I was shown to had "ADA HARBOUR" written across it. Well, although Nii Ocansey and his followers didn’t get the harbour, at least they brought things to a head. I realized that I had to make a great political decision and I decided that the Government must act and act immediately.
Ada lost the harbour because of the silt and sand banks which according to the experts, would have necessitated fulltime dredging. But Ada must not think that she has been passed over. Those sand banks are going to become a veritable paradise on earth. About two months ago I paid a visit to these little islands, travelling from the mainland by launch. Even in their natural state, they are as beautiful as anything I have yet seen, and I was immediately alerted as to their potential as holiday resorts, places where people will retreat to from all corners of the earth in order to get "away from it all." Ada, in fact, has been re-discovered.
And so it came about that in 1951, we embarked on what is probably the most ambitious harbour project yet to have been undertaken in Africa — the building of this new port and town of Tema.
In order to get some idea of the magnitude of this whole operation, I would like to mention that the town of Tema will eventually consist of twelve communities with a population of about a quarter million people. At the present moment, there are only two communities here. As regards the harbour, its capacity will eventually be increased to twenty berths or more, with five quays. We intend to extend and expand the present dry dock (which is capable of taking only small craft, fishing vessels and other minor boats) and bring it to a stage which will make it suitable for taking large merchant and naval ship for repair purposes and also as a shipbuilding yard. A new fishing harbour is also planned, which will be twice the size of the one we have now. In the meanwhile, however, a solid foundation has been provided on which the economic progress of the country can be securely based.
The total cost of the main harbour works up to the present stage of development, amount to some £G27 million, every penny of which has been found from our own resources.
At this point, I would like to refer briefly to the progress we have made in shipping, civil aviation and communications generally in Ghana. The high standards we have maintained in the construction of trunk roads, throughout the country have earned us a good reputation on all sides. But on the sea and in the air, the black Star Line and Ghana Airways have proudly taken their places with the services of other nations. The Black Star Line now operates a fleet of thirteen vessels, seven of which are owned by the state. Five new ships are expected to be delivered to us before the end of this year, by which time the total deadweight tonnage of Ghana’s mercantile marine will exceed one hundred thousand tons. This is not a bad beginning. And it is interesting to note that all this has been built up within the last three and a half years.
As far as commercial flights are concerned, Ghana now has an impressive fleet of twenty aircraft flying throughout Europe and Africa, and it is their policy to extend their flights to all African states and beyond. And there again, it is interesting to note that all these things have been done in the last three and a half years.
We have every reason to hope that this harbour will prove to be a profitable concern and that the shipping of all nations — from the East and from the West — will be attracted here. In particular, we offer a special welcome to shipping from our neighbouring and other African states. Indeed, I hope that Tema harbour can become a "free port" for those African states who want to use it. With regard to the handling of cargo in Tema Harbour, I would like to mention the fact that the Government has established the Ghana Cargo and Handling Company under the management of W. Biney and Company, whose main purpose is to carry out stevedoring, master porterage and lightering.
We believe that over-all economic planning on a continental basis is an inescapable necessity for the advancement of Africa. I am convinced that we, the independent states of Africa, should now be thinking seriously of ways and means of building up a Common Market of a United Africa, rather than allow ourselves to be lured by the dubious advantages of the European Common Market.
Africa has for too long looked outward for the development of its economy, transportation and even for its arts and culture. From now on, Africa must look inwards into the African continent for all aspects of its development. Our communications in the past have stretched outwards to Europe and elsewhere, instead of developing internally, between our cities and states. All this must be changed. We realise that it is only by our own exertions that we can bring progress, unity and strength into Africa.
It is our hope that this port which we are opening today, will play a useful role in opening up this part of Africa. Many pails of West Africa (and l use West is Africa merely as an example to stress the need for continental planning) are very is far from the sea. West Africa is not endowed with many natural harbours and the cost of building an artificial harbour is prohibitive for many states. Yet, by concerted action we can build international highways which will connect Tema to other capitals beyond the boundaries of Ghana. It would consequently be possible for other towns outside Ghana to share in the advantages of a modern sea port. By taking advantage of the river systems of West Africa, it should be possible again, by concerted action — to connect the hinterland, far outside the borders of Ghana with this great port of Tema. Thus, in this harbour of Tema, we see a unifying force and an essential requirement in the progress towards African unity.
If you look at the map of Ghana today, you will find that the road and railway systems were designed by the colonialists to facilitate the exportation of the wealth of the country. This is an essential characteristic of a colonial economy. Since 1951, we in Ghana have endeavoured to break away from this colonial economy. Roads have been built not only to maintain essential exports but to open up the country so that a thriving economy may be generated within the country. Takoradi harbour, although it has been of great benefit to the country, was conceived in the interest of a colonial economy. The vision which created Tema is entirely different. Tema is the sign post of the future. It represents the purposeful beginning of the industrialisation of Ghana. It is the signal for industrial expansion, a challenge to our industry and intelligence and a hope for the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, before I declare this harbour open, l should like to pay tribute to the consulting engineers. Sir William Halcrow and Partners, and to the contractors, Messrs. Parkinson Howard Limited, and to all the many people, both Ghanaian and non-Ghanaian, who have played a part in making Tema harbor what it is today. In this connection, l would particularly like to mention the valuable service rendered by Sir Eric Milburn, how I am glad to see he is with us today.
And now, it is my pleasure to declare Tema harbour officially open, and to unveil this commemorative plaque.