• Sunday, April 14, 2024
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$1.5bn Lekki seaport: Analysts proffer measures to avert repeat of Apapa scenario


As Nigerian businesses anticipate the completion and take-off of the much-awaited $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport, the consensus opinion among experts is that the promoters of the port project must do everything possible to avert a repeat of the Apapa conundrum.

Apapa, which plays host to Nigeria’s two busiest ports – Apapa and Tin-Can Island – that together control 75 percent of import and export activities, has for too long been bedevilled by persistent gridlock occasioned by unwholesome activities of truckers. This situation, apart from its effect on daily movement of motorists, residents and commuters in and out of Apapa, has crippled businesses in the port city, crashed property value in this prime location, and left over 40 percent of the buildings in Apapa GRA currently empty.

It is this situation that the analysts say the Lekki Deep Seaport axis may eventually face unless the promoters of the port project push for the expansion of the Lekki-Epe Expressway, Epe-Shagamu Road as well as the development of functional rail line to ensure smooth movement of cargoes in and out of the port.

Iheanacho Ebubeogu, general manager, security, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), said Nigeria needs a deep seaport as soon as possible to allow for berthing of bigger ships and achieve economy of scale. He added, however, that there was need to expand the roads leading to the Lekki Deep Seaport to eight lanes to avert the reoccurrence of the Apapa problem.

“To avert the reoccurrence of what is happening in Apapa today, government in building the new port, should ensure that between the port entrance and about 4 kilometres away, there should be only warehouses for storing cargoes and roads for movement of cargo by trucks,” said Kunle Folarin, chairman, Port Consultative Council (PCC), at a recent quarterly business roundtable organised by MMS Plus Newspapers.

Lekki Port, which is a multi-purpose seaport located at the heart of the Lagos Free Trade Zone, is expected to be one of the most modern ports in West Africa at completion. The NPA awarded 45 years concession to Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise on a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis.

The experts say the promoters of the project also need to push for the establishment of truck and trailer transit parks within Epe axis to serve as truck holding-bays where electronic call-up system will be used to streamline the number of trucks coming to the port to pick laden containers or drop empties.

In addition, they say the Federal Government needs to limit the number of oil tank farms licensed to be situated within the Epe axis while the existing tank farms and refineries should use railway or pipelines as alternative means of evacuating products.

When these are done, they believe Nigeria’s first deep seaport will become a destination hub for trans-shipment and local cargoes without recording incidents of traffic congestion that currently obstructs free movement of cargo out of the nation’s major seaports.

Ebubeogu advised promoters of port projects in Nigeria to learn not to depend on port plan but port master plan.

“Port plan covers the jurisdiction of the port while port master plan covers the port itself and its maritime industrial environment. For instance, if the NPA has had the vision of port master plan at the time Apapa port was built, the whole of Creek Road and Wharf Road would have been secured and owned by the NPA,” Ebubeogu said.

“If the NPA had Creek Road, there is no way the authority would have allowed two tank farms to be located on Creek Road. We must have port areas where the port managers collaborate with the city administrators to regulate traffic,” he added.

Citing the America example, Ebubeogu said the World Trade Centre and its environs belong to the Port of New York and it enabled the US port authority to regulate the tenancy such that the traffic flow from the city is not in conflict with that of the port.

Folarin said there is no port corridor in Nigeria because there are several residential houses located 10 metres from the port. He suggested that new ports like Lekki should have ring road exclusively reserved for port operations.

“If we keep using single mode of transportation without rail and waterways, the roads will fail due to the pressure on them. For example, when Apapa-Oshodi Expressway was constructed, it was conceived that the road was meant to serve the Tin-Can Island Port, but today the road has become a municipal traffic area used by residents,” he said.

According to Folarin, a recent study carried out shows that about 1 million vehicles transit from Oshodi through Apapa to Lagos at peak period, showing that new ports like Lekki should plan for future growth.

“If we fail to do the right thing today, in the future, if Nigeria prospers and the volume of cargo increases, it will become difficult to manager prosperity than poverty,” he added.

Speaking further, Ebubeogu said traffic has been difficult to manage in ports in Lagos because all Nigerian ports have extensive port mileage except Warri port. Port mileage is the distance between the port entrance and the highway.

Ebubeogu said Warri port is the only port a trailer can come out from and drive into the expressway while others create port mileage, adding that Lekki needs to avoid city traffic interfering in cargo transportation.

“When Tin-Can was built, the highway started from Tin-Can gate, but today, if a trailer leaves Tin-Can Port, the driver will keep accelerating and breaking until the vehicle gets to Mile 2,” he said.
“Leaving Apapa Port from Wharf Road, it is only when the trailer gets to Stadium that the driver will start having constant acceleration. But from the port, the driver can change gear more than 50 times before getting to this point,” he added.

Upon completion, Lekki Port will have a total of three container berths, one dry bulk berth and three liquid berths. It is expected to have 16.5 metres draught for berthing of larger vessels and accommodate 2.7 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of container capacity per annum.

In terms of ownership, International Consortium led by Lekki Port Investment Holding Inc. (Tolaram Group) holds 75 percent of the equity share, Lagos State Government 20 percent, and the NPA hold 5 percent.