Nigerians have complained about the congestion at the Apapa, Lagos ports, and the bad access roads to them. It is against this background that the Federal Government floated the idea of an alternative seaport in the former nation’s capital. It is aimed at giving succour to operators and stakeholders in the sector.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, noted this advantage during an inspection of the port planned for completion next year.
Amaechi, accompanied by officials of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and other government agencies, including the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigeria Shippers’ Council (NSC) and the Nigerian Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency (NIMASA), was impressed with the progress of the Lekki Deep Seaport project.
He said: “I am very delighted and impressed with the pace and the progress of construction on this project from the last time I was here in November 2020. The promoter of the project, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, has demonstrated a strong commitment and capacity to deliver the project as agreed.”
The Minister, however, urged the management of Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited and other stakeholders to ensure that the port became operational by mid-2022.
The seaport is a multi-purpose project in the heart of the Lagos Free Trade Zone and is expected to offer support to the burgeoning commercial operation across Nigeria and the entire West African region.
The port has deepwater berths with a 670-metre turning circle and a harbour basin 14 metres deep and it has the following advantages:
- Rising demand for container capacity levels in Lagos.
- Significant growth in sectors, such as finished goods, within the country and the regions that are linked to high levels of containerisation.
- Potential to transform into the first major transhipment hub in the region, servicing the regional sea routes and the hinterland at the same time.
- First-mover advantage in providing deepwater facilities to support large container volumes, liquids and dry bulk cargo.
- Downstream procession facilities contributing to the need for liquid bulk facilities.
The development of the Lekki Port is being undertaken by the NPA, the Lagos State Government and an Investment Holding Company incorporated to hold the non-Nigerian governmental interests in the seaport.
Briefing the Minister and his entourage on the status of the port, the Chairman, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, Mr Abiodun Dabiri, said the port construction had reached 55.48 per cent completion.
Dabiri added that dredging and reclamation had reached 61.11 per cent, quay wall 50.39 per cent, breakwater 67.49 per cent while landside infrastructure development had reached 33.70 per cent completion.
The LFTZ chairman assured the Minister and the stakeholders that the project was on course. He declared that at the end of the third quarter (Q3) 2022, they would complete the construction while commercial operations would commence by the fourth quarter (Q4) 2022 as planned.
“We understand the significance of this project to the economy and we would not fail to play our part to ensure that it is delivered as and when due,” he said. He thanked the Minister and his team for providing the support that has assisted the company to deliver on the mandate given to it on the project.
Nigeria is not far from achieving the dream of developing a deep seaport though. About two years ago, Tolaram Group, the parent company of the Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, concluded negotiation and signed off a $629 million (N226.44 billion) loan facility agreement with China Development Bank (CDB) for the construction of the Lekki Deep Seaport. The development of the seaport was conceptualised to fill a significant gap in projected demand and capacity. 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 infrastructure, the capacity in Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports in Lagos is incapable to meet 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, up to 5.5 million TEUs in 2025. The strategic location optimised layout, and modern facilities provide Lekki Port with a distinct competitive edge over other port facilities 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 yearly, 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 agreement, according to a source close to Tolaram Group, is a major step towards the financial close on the funding for the construction of Nigeria’s first deep seaport project, estimated to gulp over $1.6 billion.
The loan facility, the source added, would enhance massive construction at the site and ensure timely completion of the project, which has gone far with the ongoing construction of breakwaters at the port site.