Posted on July 6, 2022
After several harrowing years of waiting to end the Apapa traffic nightmare that has become the shame of Nigeria, the traumatised residents of Apapa, citizens who ply the route to work on a daily basis, and port users woke up to a cheery news over the weekend of the docking of the first ship at the Lekki Deep Seaport, designed to be a significant game-changer in Nigeria’s maritime economy.
Scheduled to commence operation by the end of this year, the port being constructed by Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), is a $2 billion investment in the Lagos Free Trade Zone initiated by the Tolaram Group.
Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, who received the marine vessel “Zhen Hua 28,” a heavy lift carrier, stated that the Lekki Deep Seaport, when operational, would reduce ship-waiting time by 50 to 60 per cent.
According to Koko, the cargo dwell time will also reduce by more than 60 per cent when operations start before the end of the year. He said the port had the capacity to handle and evacuate more cargoes, adding that the cargo clearing process would be faster due to the automation of the port.
Board Chairman, Lekki Port Lagos Free Trade Zones (LFTZ), Biodun Dabiri, said the Lekki port would begin to deliver Nigeria as a regional hub for maritime business.
Dabiri stated, “Now the vessel we just received is carrying some major cranes and those cranes will enhance the transformation business of the deep seaport. The draft depth of this sea is about 16.5 meters and the vessel itself can only take about 14.5 meters, the implication of this is that there is nowhere in this country that this vessel can berth and that is what makes it historic.”
Indeed, last Friday’s development is a significant one for Nigeria and port users. This is because over the years, efforts to develop deep seaports in Nigeria have not yielded any positive results, as unstable government policies, and lack of safety and security of funds invested by promoters hindered the development of Greenfield seaports in the country.
The deep seaports were conceived to improve the overall cargo handling capacity of Nigerian ports, and thereby increase the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The handling capacity of ports in Nigeria is put at 60 million metric tonnes, while demand and usage is about 100 million metric tonnes.
These are expected to rise with the increasing population, urban expansion, and attendant demand for more markets.
The cargo throughput handled in the ports increased from 66,908,322 metric tonnes in 2009 to 74,910,282 metric tonnes in 2010, indicating a 12 per cent increase. According to global trends in port development, out of over 100 seaport development projects being executed in the world, approximately 60 to 75 per cent are deep seaports or terminals. The balance is mostly inland waterway ports and jetties.
This clearly indicates that Nigeria needs better-designed port facilities in tune with increased cargo traffic, for the country to be globally competitive.
Moreover, as emphasis is shifting to larger and more economical vessels that require deeper harbour drafts, global logistics trends have made the need for deep seaports more imperative.
The development of Lekki Deep Seaport was conceptualised on the basis of a significant gap in projected demand and capacity. Market studies indicate that the demand for containers in Nigeria is expected to grow at 12.9 per cent up to 2025.
However, given the expansion constraints on the existing infrastructure, the capacity in Lagos is incapable of meeting the growing demand.
The capacity shortfall for container terminal facilities in Lagos is projected to be 0.8 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) in 2016 going up to 5.5 million TEUs in 2025. The strategic location, optimised layout, and modern facilities provide Lekki Port a distinct competitive edge over any other port facility in the West Africa region.
When completed, the multi-purpose port would cover an area of 90 hectares with three container berths, long dry bulk berths, and three liquid berths. Initially, the port would handle close to 1.5 million TEUs of containers annually, and this would be upgraded to 2.5 million TEUs in the future.
The channel would be dredged to 14 meters depth, which would be deepened to 19 metres as traffic grows, while the breakwater, which protects the vessels from the waves, is 1.5 kilometres long.
The port project is jointly financed by a consortium of six banks, which include the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), Standard Chartered Bank (SCB), RMB, Africa Finance Corporation (AFC), and Standard Bank.
Lekki Deep Seaport is jointly owned and developed by the Tolaram Group, NPA, and Lagos State Government as equity investors.
Tolaram, which has the concession to build and operate the port for 45 years, appointed the China Harbour Engineering Company, the world’s biggest marine engineering company, as the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor to oversee the design, construction and commissioning of the port project under the supervision of an American project management consultant, known as Louis Berger Group.
Meanwhile, some stakeholders have warned that the Apapa tragedy may be a child’s play if urgent steps are not taken to address the Lekki Deep Seaport access road challenge.
It is learnt that the management of NPA has been pleading with Lagos State Government, Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and Dangote to hasten the expansion and reconstruction of the road leading to port.
Reliable sources told THISDAY that the contract for the expansion of the Lekki Port access road had been awarded to Dangote under the tax credit scheme.
However, work is yet to commence on the dualisation of this segment.
It was learnt that Dangote was yet to pay the contractor, Hitech Construction Limited.
Sources told THISDAY that Hitech had already mobilised over 150 personnel on ground and all equipment were ready, waiting for the commitment to commence the work.
“Sand filling measurements have been finalised, right of way has been agreed and cleared to a large extent,” a source volunteered.
As Nigeria moves closer to achieving its dream of owning a deep seaport, it is expected that the project would tackle the challenges that may arise from the decreasing capacity of the river ports across the country to handle cargoes as a result of their various stages of collapse and the humongous amount needed for their reconstruction.