Nigerian seaport is seriously positioning itself to become the hub for the West African region using the newly built $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport as a transit port for cargoes going to neighbouring landlocked countries in the West African region.
Presently, Nigeria is hopeful of receiving the first set of its transhipment cargoes through Lekki Port in the next three weeks.
To capture these transship cargoes, the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMoT) together with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), has acquired and commissioned two newly built 80 tons tugboats for berthing of vessels of all sizes at Lekki Port.
Speaking at the commissioning in Lagos at the weekend, Magdelene Ajani, permanent secretary of FMoT, said as the first in Africa to acquire two 2813 models of Damen’s ASD neoteric 80 tons bollard pull tugboats, the Nigerian Ports Authority has shown its determination to boost port operational efficiency.
She said it also signposts Nigeria’s seriousness to optimise the opportunities in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement by maximizing its comparative advantages using maritime assets as a littoral nation.
While commending the NPA for delivering on the project in good time to support the optimisation of the Lekki Deep Seaport, Ajani assured that the Ministry will continue to encourage inter-agency collaborations towards making Nigeria a reference point of excellence in trade facilitation.
Earlier, Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director of the NPA, said the acquisition of the largest tugboats in Africa will enable Nigeria to attain hub status by servicing domestic cargo needs, winning back transit cargo hitherto lost to other maritime neighbours and positioning to cater to the maritime requirements of landlocked countries in a more efficient manner.
According to him, countries such as Cameron, Chad, and Niger have indicated interest in having their cargoes moved from Nigerian ports.
“Two weeks ago, we started discussions with officials from Cameron, Chad, and Niger Republic. The idea is to start moving their cargoes through Nigeria and they are looking for a port that would reduce the waiting time of import cargoes. We are also working with the relevant government agencies to put relevant protocols in place to achieve this without hindrances.
He said the acquisition will reduce the waiting time of vessels at the port which will automatically reduce cargo dwell time as the boats have the capacity to tug in vessels of all sizes.
“We have deployed a three-pronged strategy driven by people technology, infrastructure, and equipment in driving efficiency at our port. Our determination to enhance our operational efficiencies accounts for the purchase of the two tugboats christened MT Maikoko and MT Da-Opukuro to complement our existing fleet of tugs and recently commissioned Security Patrol Boats (SPBs) and Pilot Cutters deployed to enhance channel security across all our locations,” he added.
Vicky Haastrup, chairman of the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), who described the move as a credible initiative of the NPA, said in the early days of port concession it was taking as long as 24 hours to berth vessels but the acquisition of marine craft such as tugboats has helped eliminate such delays.
She said that terminal operators are excited because it will aid trade facilitation at the highest level.