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Neighbouring countries consider Lekki Deep Seaport for transit cargoes

By Adaku Onyenucheya
01 February 2023   |   3:19 am
With the commissioning of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport and commercial operations expected to begin fully by the end of the first quarter of 2023, countries in West and Central Africa have begun talks to transit their cargoes through the port.

Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Monday, January 23 welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari to the state for the unveiling and commissioning of the Lekki Deep Sea Port.

With the commissioning of the Lekki Deep Seaport, neighbouring countries have indicated interest to transit their cargoes via the port, allowing Nigeria to regain 60 per cent of its lost cargoes and revenue, ADAKU ONYENUCHEYA writes.

With the commissioning of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport and commercial operations expected to begin fully by the end of the first quarter of 2023, countries in West and Central Africa have begun talks to transit their cargoes through the port.

The Director-General, Ministry of Transportation, Niger Republic, Mme Tchima Moustapha, indicated the country’s interest to transit cargoes through the Lekki port via the Dala Inland Dry Port, stating that with the modern facilities available at the deep seaport, Niger Republic is ready to stop patronage of Cotonou and Lome ports.

The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, confirmed that some neighbouring countries are already indicating interest in moving their cargoes from Lekki port to Kano State and to other African countries, as they have seen the opportunity of smooth operations and efficiency of the port.

With this development, Nigeria will regain 60 per cent of its cargoes that are diverted to ports in Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic and Cote D’Ivoire, which caused a yearly revenue loss of about N136 billion.

Already, 80 per cent of containers shipped to West and Central Africa destined for Nigerian markets and close landlocked countries are diverted to other neighbouring ports.

The loss, according to findings, is a result of Nigeria’s inability to receive mega-sized ships due to shallow ports and persistent human-to-human contact owing to lack of automated processes, which breeds corruption at the existing seaports and increased cost of doing business.

A 2021 report by Netherlands’ leading consulting firm, Dynamar, revealed how the three busy ports in Nigeria – Apapa with a shallow draft of about 10.5 metres, Tin-Can port with about 13 metres and Onne with a depth of 13 metres, had fallen behind in terms of vessel calls in the West African sub-region.

The depth of the ports is a far cry from what is obtainable in Lome, which has 16 metres depth and made Nigeria lose out on receiving mega-ships, as leading shipping companies in global trade deploy ultra-mega-sized ships to reduce cost of operation for the shipping liners.

Adjudged the deepest seaport in West Africa, Lekki Port, with a depth of 16.5 metres is positioned to offer critical support to burgeoning commercial operations in Lagos State, as well as service the gateway for Nigeria and the surrounding West African region.

Equipped with the latest super- post panamax, ship-to-shore cranes and rubber-tyred-gantry cranes, Lekki Port will operate automated processes in line with global standards and world-class facilities.

The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, described the project as the biggest infrastructure in the whole of West Africa, which will handle four times the capacity of cargoes Apapa and Tincan ports currently handles.

The NPA helmsman also affirmed that the port will attract bigger vessels and more cargoes, as well as reduce the cost of doing business in the country compared to other countries.

Meanwhile, phase one of the multipurpose port covers an area of 50 hectares, with two container berths and a total capacity of 1.2 million TEUs yearly.

It has an approach channel of about 11km long and 16.5 metres deep, while the main breakwater is 1.9 kilometres long and will accommodate a corridor for liquid transport to and from the liquid berths.

Upon completion of the final phase, the port will have three container berths, one dry bulk berth and three liquid berths, which will service ships up to 160,000 DWT.

The turning circle, which will have a diameter of approximately 600 metre will handle 18,000 TEU vessels, while tug boats will assist in the moving of various vessels.

According to Moustapha, “Lekki deep seaport will be a good relationship between Niger Republic and Nigeria. I am happy with what I am seeing and will ensure that Niger Republic brings its cargoes through Nigeria from now on. You know our major port is Cotonou, so we are trying to divert our cargo shipment to Nigeria because of this port.

” Nigeria to Niger is about 1,000 kilometres, but since I know there will be a response on time, we are going to be using Lekki port more, so the cost and guarantee will be valid.”

At the commissioning of the deep seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari last week to commence commercial operations, stakeholders expressed optimism that Nigeria would regain its position as the maritime hub in Africa.

At the ceremony, Buhari led the Lagos State Governor, Minister of Transportation Muazu Sambo, Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Ciu Jianchun, top government officials and traditional rulers to witness the offloading of containers from the freighter – CMA CGM MOZART – that berthed at the port a day before the commission, which sailed under the flag of Malta.

Buhari stated that the project is in line with his Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) emphasis on supporting game-changing infrastructure projects directed at making an impact on trade and commerce.

Sambo noted that the commissioning of the project was made possible by the expedited manner the President handled all requests made by the Federal Ministry of Transportation concerning deep seaport.
”With seaports being under the exclusive legislative list, the Nigerian Ports Authority’s provision of a sinking fund for Lekki deep seaport, Federal Government’s equity contribution gave this project the necessary statutory cover and financial guarantee in line with the law.
”Completing a project of this magnitude and impact in a record time of 45 months shows the effectiveness of tenacious ministerial supervision, strict regulatory oversight and strong presidential backing,” he said.

The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, said the landmark gateway project, jointly built by five parties from different countries is a fitting example of a good business model.

The Lekki port project is a joint venture between the Federal Government, through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos State Government, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, Tolaram Group and China Harbour Engineering Company.
”This project is a joint venture between China, Nigeria and Singapore, and is run by a French company. The model of five parties from four countries is a way of taking advantage of the wisdom and strength of all parties,” he said.

He pledged that China would promote this business model to pursue a win-win outcome, particularly to the growth, development and progress of Nigeria, adding that the project is the engine of the economy, equity of investment and example of a model business.
“The Nigerian government does not need to worry about the existence of guarantees or debt risks. It also shows that the investment climate in Nigeria can be trusted. We have every reason to be confident in Nigeria’s future development,” he said.

The Managing Director, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, Mr. Du Ruogang, noted that the port would redefine maritime activities in Nigeria and the entire West African sub-region, as well as drive the country’s economy upon commencement of operations by the end of the first quarter, 2023.

He said with the port, Nigeria will witness growth in maritime traffic and global trade, as well as strengthen connectivity and capability to provide efficient and reliable services.
Ruogang expressed confidence that the port would help to reinforce Nigeria’s status as a regional maritime hub and enable many related industries to flourish.

Benefit to economy
Stakeholders have described Lekki port as a game changer that will boost the growth of the country’s economy, create about 170,000 direct and indirect jobs and generate over $201 billion in revenue for both Lagos state and the Federal Government.

The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, said the maritime industry remains the surest path to rapid growth and economic development.

Jamoh said the port would inject nothing less than $361 billion into the economy during the 45 years concession period, while creating over 190,000 job opportunities for the country’s youth.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Lagos Free Zone (LFZ), Dinesh Rathi, said the port will boost Nigeria’s economy by increasing the volume of trade and attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country through the Zone.

He said the integration of the port and the Lagos Free Zone is the most ideal investment destination, given the quality of infrastructure available within the Zone.

Rathi noted that the port would give unparalleled competitive advantages to investors at LFZ in terms of ease of doing business and trade efficiency.

He expressed confidence that the combination of the port and the Lagos Free Zone would play a major role in boosting Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and creating employment opportunities for the people.

Rathi said the project will greatly impact economic growth and development, adding that Lekki port and LFZ will evolve together by creating an ecosystem that is the first of its kind in Nigeria.

The Chairman, China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), Mr. Tang Qiaoliang, said the port is a major trade hub in West Africa, which will improve the country’s port industry, ease the burden of cargo shipment flow, create employment, and ultimately promote international trade in the nation.

He said the company sees opportunity in Nigeria and believes in its potential, which is why it committed adequate financial investments and essential technology in the construction and operation of the port.

Qiaoliang said under the framework of the China Africa Forum and the Belt and Road Initiative, the company looks forward to establishing long-term strategic partnerships in the infrastructure sector with the Federal Government.

He said this will ultimately deepen the relations and cooperation between Nigeria and China to better serve the Nigerian people and its economy.

The Chairman of Tolaram Group, Mohan Vaswani, said the completion and commissioning of the world-class port is an important milestone that will increase the economic well-being of Nigeria and its people.