Posted on December 12, 2022
As President Muhammadu Buhari commissions the Lekki Deep Seaport in January 2023, stakeholders in the maritime sector have called on government to articulate plans to ensure the port operate within a sustained serene district.
This is because there are concerns that the Lekki Deep Seaport may make life miserable for residents and businesses around the Lekki area of Lagos if appropriate facilities to aid easy cargo evacuation were not put in place.
The stakeholders, who spoke at the one-day retreat organised by the League of Maritime Editors (LOME) on the theme: ‘Lekki Deep Seaport: Identifying Gains, Challenges and Potential Threat to Lagos Ports’, urged government to urgently provide seamless hinterland connectivity for the port.
Speaking at the forum, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Mohammed Bello-Koko, said that though the port may face constraints of hinterland connectivity now, efforts are in top gear to provide infrastructures to ensure smooth operations.
He said: “With the immense benefits that the Lekki Deep Seaport hope to offer in changing the landscape of port operations, there is the constraints of hinterland connectivity. This is considered a fundamental flaw of the planning process.
“It is important to note that port is segmented into two: there is the aspect of maritime space and hinterland connectivity for cargo evacuation. While the attention has been on maritime space, there is complete neglect of hinterland connectivity.
“This is likely to be an albatross for the optimisation of the benefits of the project’s investment as well as efficiency of the port operations. For instance, there is no rail connectivity, even when the road connection is grossly inadequate.
“The only way out is to embrace barge operations in the short-run. This does not forecloses the need for multi-modalism and inter-modalism that should guarantee the fluidity of cargo evacuation and ultimately efficiency of port operations,” he said.
Bello-Koko, who was represented by Mr. Ago Durowaiye said that the commencement of operation in the port in the first quarter of 2023 will be a game changer, not only to Nigeria, but the entire West Africa.
He said that the efficiency will be very high and operators will minimise operational cost using the port.
Bello-Koko allayed fears that the Lagos ports will automatically die because of the Lekki port. He said that the Lekki port is not a threat to any of the existing ports in Lagos.
According to him, the existing port will function as a feeder port, because they are river ports and will also serve as regional port to serve cargoes of their catchment areas.
The Chairman, Shipping Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Vicky Haastrup, represented by the Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports Communications, Bolaji Akinola, said that government and stakeholders should ensure that past mistakes are not repeated in trying to resolve issues bedeviling the industry.
Haastrup said that it is getting too late to address the issues of encroachment and congestion around Lekki port, noting that almost all the lands around the port and the Free Trade Zone have been bought.
She said that ab-initio, a rail should have been planned along with the port, while barges should have been mandated on the port. “With the commencement of port operations, and cargo evacuation activities that road network will be locked, making life difficult for people living in that axis.”
The Chairman, League of Maritime Editors (LOME), Timothy Okorocha, said that there was need to fully drive the blueprint and its support system to realise the economic projections of the new Lekki Deep Seaport.
He also stated that there is need to have a comprehensive overview of the new and old port systems, not just to strengthen future decision making, but also to interrogate the possibility of future seamless interconnectivity.
“We all know that the major challenge of the old Lagos ports has to do with space and the logistics value chain. Fifty years from today, will the Lekki Deep Seaport still be as attractive in operation as it is presently is on paper and conception?
“It will be necessary to remind the operators of the Lekki Deep Seaport to begin early to articulate plans to sustain and maintain a strict port district devoid of encroachments, whether municipal or industrial, environmental or physical to avoid the Lagos ports mistakes,” he said.