Anxiety over Lekki seaport cargo evacuation strategy
• Stakeholders fear another ‘Apapa experience’, seek rail, pipeline networks
• Proposed refinery, airport, free trade zone, may compound traffic along axis
MODALITIES to adopt for cargo evacuation from Lekki Deep Seaport are generating anxiety among stakeholders in the maritime sector.
Scheduled for inauguration in 2019, the ongoing project is expected to attract and handle Post-Panamax container vessels of up to 10,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) coupled with an annual throughput capacity of 1.5 million TEUs.
The $1.65 billion proposed port project, financed by six international banks is being built on a tripartite arrangement of the Federal Government, represented by Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Lagos State Government and private inventors, represented by Tolaram Group of Singapore.
Under the arrangement, the port which is being constructed on Public Private Partnership (PPP) as a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) concession, has an equity arrangement of 20 per cent for Federal Government; Lagos State government 18.5 per cent and the private inventors have 61.85 per cent.
According to its promoters, the proposed port is being designed to reduce pressure on the already congested Lagos Seaports and tackle gridlock along Apapa axis.
But stakeholders such as the Nigeria Shippers Council (NSC), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Maritime experts, industrialists among others, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, advised promoters of the project to put in place detailed cargo evacuation measures before the completion of the project in 2019.
They argued that except a seamless and reliable cargo evacuation strategy such as rail line, pipeline is in place, the port may turn out to be another burden on the nation especially residents and businesses along the axis.
Specifically, Executive Secretary of NSC, Hassan Bello, in a chat with The Guardian yesterday, disclosed that the council has concluded plans to hold another meeting with promoters of the project later this month on smooth access to the proposed port.
Commending the promoters of the project for the initiative, Bello said after the scheduled meeting, a “comprehensive advice” would be forwarded to the Federal Government.
He advised promoters of the project to consider alternatives to road transport such as rail, waterways and pipeline for petroleum products, “so that we will not have the problem of Apapa all over again.”
Director-General, LCCI, Muda Yusuf, who spoke in a similar vein, explained that the existing road along that axis cannot cope with the challenges of a port without alternatives.
He said: “It is a question of planning. Infrastructure is not static. I expect the existing plan to be expanded. A bridge can be constructed to ease movement. Already, we have issues with traffic along the axis.”
An economist, Matthew R. Otoide, who also spoke on the issue yesterday, said: “We should learn to do things properly in this country. Based on our sad experience along Apapa axis, I expect the Federal and Lagos State governments to construct a rail line along the route.
“They are proposing so many projects along that axis – airport, seaport, refinery and a Free Trade Zone but no plan yet for a rail line. There is no modern transport infrastructure for the mass movement of people and goods.
“Already, the access road leading to Lekki is congested, the waterway neglected. Can you expect the port to be different from Apapa? The time to plan is now. I’m afraid some houses may have to be demolished for road expansion and rail network. We must do things properly to get lasting and positive results”, Otoide added.
But the promoters of the project said they are working round the clock to improve road infrastructure along the axis.
The Lagos State government has pledged to expand road infrastructure along the axis as part of measures to ensure easy access to the port.
Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, who was represented by the Commissioner for Commerce & Industry, Mrs. Olusola Oworu, at a ceremony where the Notice-to-Proceed was issued to the contractor last weekend, urged the promoters to continue to develop the project “at a rapid pace so that the port can become operational within the set time frame.”
He added that the Lagos State government will continue to do all that is within its power to ensure that the road infrastructure in the Lekki axis is developed and enhanced to accommodate the demands of the Port and other projects along the Lekki axis.
Situated within Lagos Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) in the Ibeju-Lekki area of Lagos State, the construction is scheduled to last 41 months.
Already, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise (LPLE) has issued the Notice-to-Proceed to its Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) contractor to commence full construction activities.
LFTZ has described the development as a major milestone “for the largest maritime project in the country.”
China Harbour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise (CHELE), a subsidiary of China Harbour Engineering Company, regarded as one of the largest maritime contractors in the world, is the EPC contractors.
According to the facilitators, total contract value for construction of all marine and land-side infrastructure for Lekki Port is $792 million. The total project cost is $1.65 billion.
The port is expected to be “the deepest sea port in the sub-Saharan Africa with a draft depth of 16.5 meters.”
Upon completion, the facility, with its proposed state-of-the-art infrastructure, “would be able to handle Post-Panamax container vessels of up to 10,000 TEUs capacity. The port will commence its operations with a yearly capacity of 1.5 million TEUs and shall quickly ramp it up to 2.7 million TEUs. In addition, when completed, Lekki Port will be equipped to handle around 16.7 million MT liquid cargo and 4.0 million MT dry bulk cargo yearly.”
According to its promoter, Lekki Port Project, in addition to solving the long-standing congestion problem at existing ports, “will create an enabling environment and spur massive investments along the Lagos Free
Trade Zone corridor and will have a direct positive impact on the overall Nigerian economy. When operational, the port will generate direct and induced employment for approximately 170,000 persons and will have an economic impact of $36l billion over the concession period.”
The Managing Director of Lekki Port, Haresh Aswani said: “This is going to be a game-changer and we are honoured to be part of this promise. Once again, we thank the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agencies, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Lagos State government for their support, as we look forward to this exciting partnership. We especially acknowledge the unflinching support extended by the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola.
We would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate our EPC contractor -CHELE and our container terminal operator — ICTSI (International Container Terminal Services, Inc.), on achieving this significant milestone that pushes the project from development phase into full construction.”
NPA recently reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to the successful completion of the port project.