Tema Motor way 2

Tema Memory Lane -The Developmental History

Tema, originally an old Ga-fishing village, became a significant part of a much larger and more ambitious scheme, known as the Volta River Project proposed as part of Kwame Nkrumah’s domestic policy, embracing multifaceted and multidimensional development projects. These projects were to serve as a symbol of ‘progress’ and were part of Ghana’s desire for modernization as it emerged from a colonial past.

Tema was built on the site of Torman, a small fishing hamlet named after the local name of the calabash plant,Vegetable Plot Calabash Plant in Garden Stock Photo - Image of container, food: 236129544 Tor, which was grown there. The name “Tema” is a corruption of the word “Torman.” Before independence, the government designated the location and in 1952 bought 166 square kilometres (64 square miles) of land north of the port, which was given to the Tema Development Corporation for future industrial and residential development. The Torman residents were relocated to a new fishing field about 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) away, which they named Newtown. Whilst others also moved Westward after the Sakumo Lagoon (Sakumor nor) -on – today known as Sakumono

The construction of the Tema Port began in the 1950s after Ghana gained independence from British control. Though the idea of its construction was initially proposed by the British colony, its planning and implementation began after Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, took over the helm of affairs as Ghana’s first President.The project was led by award-winning city planner and the first Ghanaian architect, Theodore S. Clerk.

Theodore S. Clerk - inside Tema
Theodore S. Clerk.

After Ghana’s independence, under the leadership of Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah, the construction of the Tema harbour began in the 1950s and was commissioned in 1962.
Construction of Tema Port began in 1954 by Sir William Halcrow & partners.


The general port plan originally comprised of two breakwaters enclosing an area of 500 acres of water with twelve berths, eight of which were situated on two quays, four transit sheds, offices, two cocoa sheds and sites for a dry dock, a slipway and a workshop.
Stones for the construction of the port were quarried from the hills at the Shai Hills Forest Reserve. By 1958, construction was advanced enough to enable a cargo vessel the “Oti River” to berth.
Watched by a crowd of cheering, singing people,

President Kwame Nkrumah formally opened Tema port Feb. 10, 1962  Ghana;s  GBP18-million harbour about 18-miles east of Accra. After unveiling the memorial plaque, the president made a speech outlining Tema’s future developmental plans.

TODAY IN HISTORY: Tema Port opened by Kwame Nkrumah in 1962

Kwame Nkrumah said 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”.
He paid tribute to the British consulting engineers and contractors responsible for the port’s construction.


Regular vessel traffic, however, started after the commissioning in 1962. This development led to the founding of the state shipping company in 1957 coincided with the founding of the state of Ghana. In that year, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah, elected in 1952, proclaimed the independence of the former British Crown Colony of the Gold Coast. The

Ghana’s indefatigable leader, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, in his God given astuteness saw the need for the provision of sea going vessels to set the stage for the institutionalization of Black Star Line, a wholly state-owned maritime corporate entity that sought to explore extensive trading activities within the West African sub-region and subsequently to the entire globalized world.

This led to the founding of an Accra -Tema -based shipping company was built with Israel’s help , with its shipping company ZIM taking over the management and manning of ships with captains and senior officers. The name of the shipping company was based on the American shipping company Black Star Line , which was operated by African Americans from 1919 to 1922, and the flag was based on the Ghanaian national flag.


The shipping company established regular liner services between West Africa and Europe as well as to Canada and the United States . In addition to its headquarters in Accra, the company operated offices in London and New York.

The first ship of the shipping company was the Volta River , built in 1940, which was still registered in London – the later home port of the fleet was Takoradi . The shipping company’s ships were named after Ghanaian rivers, lakes and lagoons. In early 1960, the company commissioned eight new build general cargo ships from the Koninklijke Maatschappij “De Schelde” shipyard in Vlissingen, two of which were subcontracted to the Orenstein & Koppel shipyard in Lübeck . Other series of new builds followed at British shipyards and most recently at Hyundai .

Black Star Line fleet
build name Shipyard/
build number
IMO number delivery client Renaming and whereabouts
Marsdale Lithgows, Port Glasgow/923 April 1940 “K” Steam Ship Company, London from September 1940 Ocean Boarding Vessel HMS Marsdale , 1942 again as a cargo ship, 1957 sold as Volta River to the BSL, 1965 and renamed Psara , scrapped at Lotti in La Spezia from May 24, 1967.
George Short, Pallion/504 July 1949 Compania Lama de Vapores, Panama 1950 Hadar , 1959 as Tano River to BSL, 1966 Arden , 1969 Achaika Hope , on 8 December 1969 on a voyage from Sete to Izmir in ballast at position 41°19.30’N; 009°20.30’E stranded, total loss.
Pra River De Scheldt, Vlissingen/311 5283449 May 1961 BSL 1981 Notos , 1983 Mayon II , on 26 July 1983 on a voyage from Las Palmas to Lagos with cement at position 14°46.18’N; Grounded at 017°32.26’W and scuttled offshore in early 1984.
Offin River De Scheldt, Vlissingen/312 5261116 Sep 1961 BSL scrapped at Salvamentos y Desguaces in Aviles from 25 September 1983.
Otchi River Orenstein & Koppel, Lübeck/568 5266805 Nov 1961 BSL from March 12, 1984 Desguaces Heme scrapped in Gijón.
Birim River De Scheldt, Vlissingen/313 5044996 March 1962 BSL scrapped at Miguel Martins Pereira in Vigo from March 30, 1984.
Nasia River Orenstein & Koppel, Lübeck/569 5247548 May 1962 BSL from April 14, 1984 Desguaces y Salvamentos scrapped in San Juan de Nevia.
Afram River De Scheldt, Vlissingen/314 5004013 Sep 1962 BSL scrapped at Salvamentos y Desguaces in Aviles from January 6, 1984.
Kulpawn River De Scheldt, Vlissingen/315 5197432 Nov 1962 BSL scrapped at Gomez Jose Oliveira in Vigo from September 26, 1983.
Lake Bosomtwe De Scheldt, Vlissingen/316 5412313 March 1963 BSL 1981 Charmyl , scrapped in Shanghai as of 1 March 1985.
Sakumo Lagoon Swan Hunter & Richardson, Wallsend/
6406000 May 1964 BSL snatched from tow and beached at Forcade Point on 5 May 1984 en route from Takoradi to demolition at Aviles.
Korle Lagoon Swan Hunter & Richardson, Wallsend/
6413431 Sep 1964 BSL from 26 September 1984 Desguaces y Salvamentos scrapped in San Juan de Nevia.
Oti River Hitachi, Sakurajima/4023 6418596 Sep 1964 BSL scrapped at Desbar in Santander from April 24, 1984
Nakwa River Barclay, Curle, Whiteinch/752
Swan Hunter & Richardson, Wallsend/2007
6505789 May 1965 BSL scrapped at Desbar in Santander from April 10, 1984
Benya River Swan Hunter & Richardson, Wallsend/
6523468 Nov 1965 BSL 1985 Water Wealth , 1985 Jah , 1988 Water Wealth , scrapped at Haryana Steel Company in Alang from 30 November 1988
Subin River Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval, Matagorda/144 6822242 July 1969 BSL 1987 Milos F. , scrapped at Mustafa Taherbhai in Sachana from April 1987.
Klote Lagoon Sociedad Española de Construcción Naval, Matagorda/145 6905472 July 1969 BSL 1987 Milos E. , scrapped at Gupta Steel in Alang from 26 April 1987.
Tano River Hyundai, Ulsan/118 7802299 February 21, 1980 BSL 1994 Verano , 1999 Express Hyphestos , scrapped in Mumbai as of 24 June 2002.
Volta River Hyundai, Ulsan/117 7802287 March 1980 BSL 1998 Toledo , 1998 Express Hercules , scrapped in Mumbai as of 16 July 2002.
Keta Lagoon Hyundai, Ulsan/119 7802304 March 1, 1980 BSL 1981 Tynebank , 1981 Keta Lagoon , 1998 Ilion , 1998 Lion , scrapped at Alang from March 1999.
Sissili River Hyundai, Ulsan/120 7802316 March 7, 1980 BSL 1993 World Star , 1995 Libra Chile , 1997 World Star , 2005 Global Carrier , scrapped at Zhangjiagang as of 13 September 2009.


Below are the full details of how the Vessels were ordered , launched and delivered –

Nieuwsblad van het Noordendated from 23 January 1960


  1. The newspaper Nieuwsblad van het Noordendated 23 January 1960 reported that a day earlier the shipyard Koninklijke Maatschappij De Schelde NV at Flushing a contract signed for building ships, value more as 9.000.000 pound sterling. Six of these ships were to be built at Flushing, the other two by the shipyard Lübecker machinen Gesellschaft te Lübeck. The government of Ghana possessed 60% of the shares in the Black Star Company and seemed to intend to buy the resting 40% from Israeli investors.                                                                                                                                                                   Archief Schelde (Gemeentearchief Vlissingen) reported as details for these ships:.

Tonnage 6,800 tons open or 9,400 tons closed and as dimensions 124,00 (between perpendiculars)                     140,75 (over all) x 18,30 (moulded) x 7,093 (maximum summer) and a deadweight of 7,093 tons-8,40                    metres (maximum summer) with a deadweight of 9,492 tons and depth 10,90 (moulded) metres.

BSL Vessel  Pra River, ordered 21 January 1960, keel laid down 5 September 1960. trials 4-7 May 1961,     handed over 13 May 1961 and departed on 14 May 1961.\

BSL Veessel Offin River, ordered 21 January 1960, keel alid down 21 January 1961, launched 13 May 1961, trials 23-24 August 1961, handed over and departed 9 September 1961.

BSL Vessel  Birim River, ordered 21 january 1960, keel laid down 13 May 1961, launched 30 September 1961, trials 27-28 February 1962 and handed over 7 March 1962.


Black starl Line Vessel -Afram River
Black star Line Vessel -Afram River, ordered 21 January 1960, keel laid down 30 September 1961, launched 1 Sir William Halcrow-Halcrorow & Partners-Founder 0 March 1962, trials 21-22 August 1962 and handed over and departed 8 September 1962.


BSL Vessel Kulpawn River, ordered 21 January 1960, keel laid down 27 January 1962, launched 9 June 1962, trials 6-7 November 1962 and handed over and departed 24 November 1962.


Black Star line Vessel – Birim River, ordered 21 january 1960, keel laid down 13 May 1961, launched 30 September 1961, trials 27-28 February 1962 and handed over 7 March 1962.

BSL Vessel Lake Bosomtwe, ordered 21 January 1960, keel laid down 9 June 1962, launched 21 November 1962, handed over and departed 3 March 1963.


BSL Vessel Oti River, ordered 21 January 1960, launched 10 May 1961 at Lubeck, delevired December 1961.


BSL Vessel Nasia River, ordered 21 January 1960, launched 31 January 1962 at Lubeck and handed over 22 May 1962.

Black Star line building Tema -Relics of Independence inside Tema
Black Star line building Tema

In the end, trade volumes didn’t justify the number and capacity of the BSL’s ships. The company began selling its fleet and exchanged its remaining four ships for smaller ones in 1993. The ships were eventually sold in the late 1990s, but the black star lives on. It still adorns Ghana’s flag, and the country’s national soccer club is nicknamed “the Black Stars” for the flag’s central feature, which is displayed on its uniforms.



Tema Port - Inside Tema
Aerial View of Tema Port



The harbour is situated along the Gulf of Guinea, and it serves both as a loading and unloading port for goods, both for Ghana and other land-locked countries to the north.

Tema Port services a wide range of industrial and commercial companies, producing or handling everything from petroleum products, cement and food items, to iron, steel and aluminum products and textiles.

Most of the country’s main export, cocoa, is also shipped from Tema Port.

The Tema harbour covers a total land area of 3.9 million square meters with the water-enclosed area being 1.7 million square meters.

It has 5 km  breakwaters, 12 deep-water berths, one oil-tanker berth, one dockyard, warehouses and transit sheds.

Nearby is also a fishing harbour with facilities that handles fish processing.



As a result of the industrilisation drive and the building and completion of the Tema Port the main Tema

PIONEER GHANAIAN ARCHITECTS: THEODORE SHEALTIEL CLERK: And the building of Tema | Transnational Architecture Group Township was constructed, and the Tema Harbor officially opened, in 1962. Over the following decades, Tema grew into the industrial hub of Ghana, with a carefully constructed road layout featuring landscaping and street lights. It boasted modern recreational centres and other social amenities rare among African cities at the time. President Nkrumah appointed Theophilus Asiaw Mills as the first District Commissioner. 

Accra - Tema motorway 1965 -inside Tema
Accra – Tema motorway 1965 -inside Tema



source :Ghana museum ,https://.jstor.org ,THE TOWN OF TEMA GHANA: PLANS FOR TWO .Doxiadis Associates
Ekistics  Vol. 13, No. 77 (MARCH 1962), pp. 159-171 (13 pages)  .Published By: Athens Center of Ekistics . http://warshipsresearch.blogspot.,com

Compiled by Alfred Kabu Ocansey

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