Stories from Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
If the Federal Government firms up every critical aspect of the development of the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos, which is expected to begin operations in the next two years, Nigeria will soon become a regional transshipment hub, while also reaping the economics of scale, maritime experts have said.
To maximize the advantages expected from the call of large vessels at the port, however, well-articulated road and rail networks, as well as navigable and operable inland waterways must be tidied up ahead of the commencement of operations to ensure efficient movement of cargoes to and from the facility.
Speaking in Lagos on “The Imperatives of Deep Seaports in Nigeria (A Case Study of Lekki Deep Seaport)” at a training programme for Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN), Dr. Frank Ojadi of the Lagos Business School described the $1.5 billion project as a noble idea that would significantly boost the nation’s economy.
He stressed that deep seaport is essential because good nautical access is essential for maritime connectivity of ports, adding: “Over the last decades, ships have rapidly become bigger and deeper.
“For example, the draft of the largest container ships at this moment is approximately 14.5 meters, which is deeper than what most ports can accommodate. Port depth, thus, becomes a competitive advantage for attracting the largest ships and a challenge for many estuary ports, which have no direct deep sea access.”
According to Ojadi, deep seaports will create opportunities for transshipment operations, generate more employment, promote local shipping business and boost trade in the country.
More so, post-Panamax vessels make a direct port call and discharge, and the bulk of their cargoes are delivered at a particular port while importers move them to their destinations through feeder vessels, thereby the need for transshipment.
To that end, he urged the federal and state governments to begin good road and rail networks, as well as inland navigation to Lekki, considering the huge traffic expected from the port and Dangote Refinery alone, beside the other major projects cited in the area.
He expressed concern that though the Senate Committee on Ports Harbours and Waterways and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) had earlier identified these critical needs, nothing concrete has yet been done about them.
On his part, industry expert and Chief Executive Officer of Ships and Ports Communications, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, warned that the multi-billion dollar projects cited in the Lekki Free Zone corridor could face access challenges if the road and rail infrastructure to the facilities were not immediately begun.
According to him, “the record year for containers in Nigeria was 2014, with throughput of 1.6 million TEUs. That has been the highest so far in the history of this country. Since then we have had a plunge, but I see this year matching 2014 records.