Tema city and port lies in southeastern Ghana along the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean), 18 miles (29 km) east of Accra. Tema Port is the biggest of two sea ports in Ghana. It has water-enclosed area of 1.7 million square metres and a total land area of 3.9 million square metres.
The Port of Tema is more than a mere loading or unloading place for goods. It is also a traffic junction, where goods are transshipped and transit cargo destined for the hinterlands/landlocked countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are handled.
It is equally a port with a wide range of industrial and commercial companies, producing or handling among others petroleum products, cement, food items, iron and steel, aluminium products and textiles.
Opened formally in 1962, Tema's harbour encloses 410 acres (166 hectares) of sea and is Africa's largest man-made harbour. There are 3 miles (5 km) of breakwaters, 12 deepwater berths, an oil-tanker berth, and a dockyard, warehouses, and transit sheds.
The port's container yard is capable of holding over 8,000 TEU's at any given time. There are 290 reefer points available. A separate fishing harbour with cold storage and marketing facilities is east of the lee breakwater.
The government acquired 64 square miles (166 square km) of land north of the harbour and entrusted it to the Tema Development Corporation (1952). The “New Town” that was subsequently built on the site was planned as an industrial-residential complex. There was a large influx of population beginning in the 1960s owing to the new employment opportunities, but the corporation was unable to construct housing and provide other services to meet the needs of this migration. The result was the creation near Tema in an area called Ashiaman.
Tema port was commissioned in 1962. The harbour which was a monumental legacy of the late Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, President of the First Republic, who was anxious to see rapid industrialization of the country.
Most of the country’s chief export, cacao, is shipped from Tema. Manufactures include aluminium, steel, refined petroleum, soap, processed fish, chocolate, textiles, cement, and chemicals.
Tema port handled 6.3 million tones of cargo in 2000, nearly three quarters of total sea-borne trade for Ghana, whilst the export was little over half of sea-borne exports. For 2001 this figure dropped slightly to 6.14 million tonnes. Of this 5.07 million tonne was imports and 783,000 tonne exports and 283,000 tonne was transit cargo.