BusinessDay

$1.5bn Lekki Port to put Nigeria at par with African peers

Expectations are high among shippers and manufacturers that depend on seaports to bring in raw materials and export finished products, as Nigeria welcomes Lekki Port Seaport, its first deepwater port.

According to Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited, the developer of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport with 16.5 metres depth – deepest in Nigeria, the port would be completed in the third quarter of 2022.

With the coming of the much-awaited deep seaport, the Nigerian port industry will likely begin to play at par with its West African peers such as Abidjan Port, Lome Port and Tema Port that have developed deeper and more extensive seaports, industry analysts say.

These nations left Nigeria behind after they succeeded in building modern ports with the capacity to handle cargoes in a timely and more efficient manner.

As a deepwater port, Lekki Port will have the capacity to accommodate larger and more modern vessels with an economy of scale for the shipper and fast delivery of consignments from the port of origin to Nigeria.

On the economic gains of the port, Warredi Enisuoh, a ship captain, says the daily cost difference between a ship carrying 4,500 Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) of containers, like in the case of Apapa Port, and a larger vessel with a capacity to carry 20,000 containers is about $1,000, which is why deepwater ports are becoming popular all over the world.

Togo Port, which has a deepwater port, handles vessels in just 1.4 days while Nigeria’s Apapa Port handles vessels in four days, he says.

BusinessDay understands that Lekki Port was conceptualised to bridge the gap in the projected demand for containerised goods, especially as the capacity of existing ports in Lagos to handle the boom is becoming limited.

The port, according to projection, is expected to help decongest the Apapa Port, which is currently struggling with limited space and poor infrastructure, especially for cargo evacuation from and to the port.

Interestingly, the Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited states that as of November 28, 2021, construction works at the project site port have reached 74.15 percent.

The developer further says the dredging and reclamation works have reached 85.38 percent while the building of quay walls has reached 77.96 percent.

Also, construction works on the breakwater stand at 75.94 percent while the construction of the landside infrastructure stands at 60.36 percent.

Emma Nwabunwanne, a Lagos-based importer, who spoke on the importance of the port, says Nigeria needs a deeper port to complement the existing ones, as Apapa and Tin-Can ports in Lagos are currently running out of capacity going by the level of congestion in the terminals.

Meanwhile, Du Ruogang, managing director, LFTZ Enterprise, says the delivery of the Lekki Port project would go a long way in helping Nigeria to bridge the infrastructure gap in its maritime sector.

On his part, Tony Anakebe, a maritime analyst, who described the coming on board of Lekki Port as a game-changer, notes that the port would help to take pressure off the nation’s busiest ports in Apapa.

According to Anakebe, Lekki Port, if properly structured, especially in terms of having the necessary cargo evacuation models, would go a long way to reduce congestion within Apapa Port terminals, and gridlock on roads leading to the ports in Lagos.

During one of her quarterly inspections of the port, Magdalene Ajani, the permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transport, assured that the developer of Lekki Port were working assiduously to meet the deadline of fourth quarter 2022 for commencement of commercial operations as directed by Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation.

On the ability to deliver the port on schedule, Ruogang says China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), the EPC contractor, is working round-the-clock to ensure timely completion of the project, and to deliver a world-class port that would be the deepest in the sub-Saharan African region.

Ruogang, who is confident that the port project would be delivered by the third quarter of 2022 as scheduled, says the primary focus is to continue to make progress on the construction as well as make preparations for the commencement of port operations at Lekki.

Lekki Port, which is being constructed on a 90-hectare of land based on Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) arrangement, would comprise of three containers, three liquid, and one dry bulk berths.

It is also expected to have a projected capacity of 2.7 million TEUs of containers per annum.

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