• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Lekki Port: One year of modernising Nigeria’s international trade

Lekki Port: One year of modernising Nigeria’s international trade

Seaports play a critical role in propelling international trade. They serve as gateways that interface between land and sea transport networks and facilitate the movement of goods between countries.

Statistics show that more than 80 percent of world trade is transported via the sea, confirming that seaports are indeed a critical infrastructure for the movement of goods.

Read also: Lekki Port berths 75 vessels with over 100,000 containers in one year

Nigeria is a big maritime nation in the Gulf of Guinea region, a key shipping zone for moving oil, gas, and goods in and out of Central and Southern Africa.

Africa’s most populous nation has seven seaports including the newly developed Lekki Deep Seaport. As the deepest and most modern port in Nigeria, Lekki is built with a 16.5-metre draught capable of receiving Post Panamax vessels of 18,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers.

Developed by Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited (LPLEL), a special purpose vehicle, the port is jointly owned by private promoters, Lekki Port Investment Holdings Inc. comprising of China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. and Tolaram; the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

The first phase of the port currently has a 680 metre long quay, one container berth, and a storage yard with over 15,000 ground slots. The terminal is designed to support a throughput of 2.7 million TEUs annually.
After the commissioning of the port in January 2023, Lekki Port commenced commercial operations on April 1, 2023, and has, in the last year, transformed the shipping business in Nigeria by putting other terminal operators on their toes in striving to achieve efficiency.

Infrastructure development

Nigeria has been battling with issues of physical inspection of goods by the Nigerian Customs Service. This explains why there was a need for Lekki Port to be positioned as an automated port. It is equipped with two non-intrusive scanners used by the Customs to fast-track examination and evacuation of cargo from the port.

It has modern facilities that can be seen in any modern port globally. It began operations with five Super Post Panamax Ship-to-Shore cranes and 15 Rubber Tyred Gantry cranes.

To achieve efficiency, eliminate congestion, and ensure seamless traffic management around the port, its promoters built a 153-capacity pre-gate truck park that works with the vehicle booking system at the port gate.

This combined with the electronic queuing management system being deployed by Lagos State through Callup Technology Ltd provides effective transport management for the Lekki economic axis.

On the marine side, NPA provided Lekki with two 80-ton tugboats that facilitate the berthing of big vessels of 366 meters and above.

“NPA has consistently shown commitment to the success of Lekki Port, and this is further demonstrated by the investment in equipment to ensure efficient provision of marine services with regards to arrival and departure of vessels,” Du Ruogang, managing director of Lekki Port, said recently.

Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director of the NPA, said that having a depth of 16.5 metres enables bigger vessels and more cargo to come to Lekki Port with economies of scale, which will bring down the costs for business.

Automating the port, he said, makes it more efficient than other ports in Nigeria and a model for port development in Nigeria.

Also, the Lagos State Government has taken steps to alleviate port users’ fear of congestion by creating three major accesses to the port including Ijebu-Ode-Epe-Eleko Junction-Coastal Road; Lekki/Ajah-Epe Expressway and Epe-Itoikin-Ikorodu Road.

This means that aside from the popular Lekki/Ajah-Epe Expressway through Eleko Junction-Coastal Road-Lekki Port, users can move their containers to the hinterland through alternative routes that offer less travel time while other users can evacuate cargo using barges.

Read also: Businesses in Alaro City benefitting from Lekki Port infrastructure MD

Achievements

Hitherto, Nigeria had been grappling to be a regional hub without success due to institutional bottlenecks that were limiting the older ports.

But since the coming of Lekki Port, Nigeria has been inching closer to becoming a hub as some neighboring countries now depend on Lekki to move their cargo.

On June 29, 2023, the port started transshipment with the arrival of the CMA CGM RIMBAUD, the first transship vessel to call at the port terminal with 411 TEUs of containers destined for Cotonou.

Aggregately, the port in collaboration with all regulatory agencies has facilitated over 25,000 transshipped containers destined for neighboring countries in the last year.

In one year, Lekki Port has handled over 100,000 containers and received a total of 75 vessels including the largest ship to enter Nigerian waters.

In January 2024, Lekki Port joined the new CMA CGM WAX service that operates along key locations including Xiamen, Qingdao, Shanghai, Singapore, Lekki Port, and Abidjan.

The port rotation began with the call of Maersk Edirne, a 13,092TEU ship with an overall length (LOA) of 366 meters and a width of 48 meters.

It preceded the historic call of CMA CGM SCANDOLA, an LNG-powered 14,812TEUs vessel, ranked as the biggest ship to call Nigerian waters, which was witnessed by port industry stakeholders and top government officials.

By receiving the LNG-powered vessel, Lekki Port is not only helping to decarbonise but also enabling Nigerian ports to meet the International Maritime Organisation net zero target aimed at reducing emissions from the shipping industry and impact on climate change.

Hinelder Ferreira, managing director of CMA CGM Nigeria Shipping Limited, said the Group had invested close to $15 billion in decarbonising its fleet.

Also, Lekki Port is now duly authorised by Nigeria Customs to process and receive pharmaceutical products, which has helped the port in expanding its operational versatility and contribute to public healthcare delivery.

Beyond the delivery of vessels, the Port has played host to industry stakeholders and top government officials some of which include Adegboyega Oyetola, minister of Marine and Blue Economy; Mohammed Bello-Koko, managing director of NPA; Adewale Adeniyi, comptroller general of Customs; Olufemi Ogunyemi, managing director of Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority and Michael Ohiani, managing director of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission.

Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos state, was a special guest of honour at the ceremony to receive the CMA CGM Scandola vessel.

Read also: How Lekki Port berths CMA CGM Scandola, an LNG-power containership

Stakeholders’ commendation

At a reception of CMA CGM SCANDOLA, Sanwo-Olu commended the management of Lekki Port, Lekki Freeport Terminal, and CMA CGM for raising the bar in the Nigerian maritime industry since the official commissioning of the port a year ago.

“This port and the entire Lekki economic zone hold the key to the economic prosperity of our state and our country. We have addressed the road infrastructure within the Lekki axis to aid cargo evacuation, and we will continue to support the Port and, indeed, all the businesses within the free zone to attain their full potential,” he said.

Biodun Dabiri, chairman of Lekki Port, said the commencement of WAX service represents a strong leap in Nigeria’s maritime transport efficiency and capacity.

“This marks a major step in driving economic growth, seamless movement of goods, fostering international trade, and strengthening Lekki Port’s position as a key player in the global market,” he said.

Amid these laudable achievements, the management of the Port pledged to ensure it serves the port community better and make Nigeria a hub for global maritime transportation.