Lekki deep seaport: FG’s quest to regain transshipment hub status
Nigeria has continued to lose its cargo revenue and investments to neighbouring countries due to multiple bottlenecks at the ports. ADAKU ONYENUCHEYA reports efforts the Federal Government is making to regain the losses and position the country as the maritime hub of West and Central Africa.
Poor infrastructure and cumbersome clearing processes among other challenges have made Nigeria to lose trans-shipment and transit cargoes to neighbouring countries thereby jeopardising the country’s chance of becoming a maritime hub.
Land-locked countries such as Chad and the Republic of Niger, which, before now, were using the country’s ports as transit points for their cargoes have diverted to Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
Also, the majority of importers divert Nigeria-bound cargoes to the neighbouring countries just as investors shun the nation’s ports to invest elsewhere. The cargo diversion costs Nigeria an estimated N130 billion yearly according to reports.
These challenges have pulled the country behind in the maritime sector, which is one of the highest contributors to the economies of other countries.
The neighbouring countries capitalise on the shortcomings in Nigeria’s maritime sector to claim transshipment hub status as they are rapidly developing into modern seaports with automated facilities and infrastructure as well as deeper draught that can accommodate larger vessels with Nigeria-bound cargoes.
While the neighbouring ports can take a vessel with 16 metres draught, none of the Nigerian seaports can accommodate such a vessel due to the nation’s shallow draught which is not more than 13 meters.
According to findings, the draught level of Togo is 15.5 metres, the Benin Republic has 15 metres, Ghana is close to 19 metres while Cameroun has 16 metres.
Already, Togo has overtaken Nigeria to become the leading port in West Africa. According to the United Nations (UN) report, Togo recorded 1, 725, 520 twenty-foot equivalents (TUEs) cargo throughput in 2020 while Nigeria recorded 1, 528, 520 TUEs in the same year, thereby losing over 196, 750 TUEs or 30 per cent of container traffic to Lome port.
Also, ports within the region have positioned themselves and are ready for participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) regime.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the country’s maritime sector had advised the Federal Government to design the concept of a deep seaport and transshipment center to accommodate large e-class vessels/mega-ships of 8,000 – 20, 000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) that are currently demanded by regionally and globally, which they said is the only solution to the diversion of goods to neighbouring ports.
Also, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had stated that with the country accounting for 70 per cent of the cargoes imported into West and Central Africa, developing modern deep seaports will be a huge potential revenue earner for the nation along with the attendant multiple socio-economic benefits.
Lekki Deepsea to rescue
Worried by the gradual loss of the maritime hub status and revenue, due to the inadequacies of seaports in the country, the Federal Government and Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited signed a 45- year concession to develop a deep sea/multipurpose port in Lagos State.
With a draught level of 16.5 metres, Quay wall of 1, 523 metres and a turning circle of 600 meters, Lekki port is projected to be one of the most modern deep seaports in West Africa, which will serve as a vast support to the burgeoning commercial operation across Nigeria and repositioning the country as the maritime hub of the region.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, had expressed confidence that the commencement of operation of the port would strengthen the country’s maritime sector to meet the ever-growing demands for goods transported by sea.
Also, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, during a recent tour of the port, said when completed the port would make Nigeria regain the maritime business that it lost to ports in Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
According to the minister, it would also be a big boost for the country in its quest to take advantage of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).
The minister also estimated that over $201 billion in taxes, royalties and duties would be generated for the government as well as create 169,972 jobs when the port commences operations in the fourth quarter of 2022.
He said the aggregate economic impact of the port, put at $361 billion in 45 years, would be over 200 times the cost of building the port.
He added that the direct and induced business revenue impact of the port is estimated at $158 billion in addition to a qualitative impact on the manufacturing, trade and commercial services sector.
“No port in Nigeria currently has this. The excellent equipment is why this port can do 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (teu), which is more than four times the number that can currently be handled by our other ports,” he stated.
He said with regulatory agencies, which include, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Police Force (NPF), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Port Health Services (PHS), Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the federal government’s ease of doing business would be achieved in the port.
On the readiness of Lekki port to help Nigeria attain its regional maritime hub agenda, the Architect of the project, Matthew Oloyede, explained that with the automated infrastructures, it will accommodate the largest and post-Panamax vessels.
“Power plant generation is 16 megawatts. We will have an efficient port where all operations are automated. We are competing with other neighbouring ports in terms of automation. Containers would pass through our scanners and not the physical examination process. This reduces the clearing time as well.
Also, the Managing Director, Lekki Deep Sea Port, Du Ruogang, assured that the port would change the economic landscape of Nigeria and West Africa at large with its largest terminal capacity.
He said the operators will have a terminal operating system that will be more integrated, not only to drive the functionality of the port but e-commerce as well.
Ruogang further said the competitive edge of the port is the ability to accept larger vessels and discharge ships twice as fast, thereby reducing the overall port stay of a vessel as well as the costs for importers and exporters minimally, while savings are handed to the consumers.