Following the recent completion of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and state governments are now getting the necessary approvals from the Federal Executive Council (FEC) to develop four new deep ports in four states across the country.
The four deep seaports are Badagry Deep Seaport in Lagos, Ondo Deep Seaport in Ondo State, Ibom Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom and Bonny Deep Seaport in Rivers State.
Badagry Deep Seaport is an investment estimated to gulp $2.59 billion, which has been approved by FEC, and is expected to create about 250,000 jobs and attract foreign direct investment.
According to Muazu Sambo, the minister of transportation, Badagry is expected to generate a total of $53.6 billion in revenue over the 45-year concession period.
For Bonny Deep Seaport, which will be located in the South-South region, the NPA believes that it will help to reduce the pressure in Lagos and open new investment opportunities in both the South-South and South-East regions.
BusinessDay understands that Ondo and Ibom deep seaports are being championed by their state governments and are presently in the advanced stages of getting their outline business cases approved by the Federal Government.
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The NPA has identified a location that has a draught of 17.5 meters for the Ibom Deep Seaport, which will enable the berthing of bigger vessels in order to create economies of scale. It will also reduce the cost of doing business for shippers.
Giving insight into the importance of deep seaports, Mohammed Bello-Koko, the managing director of NPA, said recently that all deep seaports in Nigeria would be automated to bring efficiency in clearing goods and ensure faster documentation.
This, he said, would position the ports to attract more transit cargoes that were lost to neighbouring African ports due to the small draught of Nigerian ports and operational inefficiencies.
“It will help Nigeria to actualise the ambition of becoming a hub within the West African corridor. Landlocked countries such as Mali, Chad, and Niger Republic have shown interest in moving their cargoes through Nigerian ports at the completion of deep seaports in Nigeria,” Bello-Koko said.
Dabney Shall-Holma, a transport expert, pointed out that the majority of seaports in West Africa are old and have reached the end of their lifespan, adding that now is the time to build modern ports with expanded channels and new quay aprons that will last for another 100 years.
“We need deep seaports and also need to create a network of modern ports. We need to also create a means of evacuation, whether by barge or rail. We need to have a multimodal system that is very efficient and cost-effective or we will not reap the benefits. Other countries are positioning to do that but they are small and we control over 65 percent of the volume of trade in West and Central Africa,” she said.
According to Shall-Holma, Nigerian deep seaports must be exceptional and modern so that the turnaround time of vessels will be fast.
“From the economic angle, building deep seaports will ensure cost-effectiveness and will bring efficiency that will bring down numbers in terms of time, yard and quay apron utilisation as well as demurrage paid for time wasted,” she added.
Tony Anakebe, a maritime expert, said the government needs to regionalise the siting of seaports in Nigeria by taking the port business to other regions.
He said that beyond building deep seaports, the government needs to focus on reviving the existing ports rather than establishing new ones.
Anakebe expressed concern that some state governments are beginning to use deep seaport projects as legacy projects so as to be seen as working while in office, without recognising the fact that developing ports require huge investment.
According to him, existing inland container depots in the country are presently starved of goods and they need to be fed with cargo in order to decongest the ports in Lagos.