The Mercury Maritime Concession Company (MMCC) is perfecting plans to design and develop the $2.9 billion proposed Escravos Seaport Industrial Complex (ESIC), in partnership with the Port of Antwerp International as part of effort to develop local capacity in the nation’s maritime sector.
The planned Escravos Seaport Industrial Complex (ESIC) project, which include the building of Escravos deep seaport, crude oil refinery and gas complex, international airport, industrial estate and a Free Trade Zone, is to be funded by a United Nation’s affiliated group based in Switzerland. It is also a Public Private Partnership (PPP) driven project entered into by the Federal Government, Delta State Government and the MMCC with some other technical partners.
Andrew Okoja, chairman of Mercury Maritime Concession Company (MMCC) told newsmen in Lagos during a recent briefing that the project will be developed in partnership with the Port of Antwerp International, as the marine infrastructure developer, while the land infrastructure component of the project will be handled by James Cubic Architect, an expatriate company.
“What moves economy of any country is the resources. The engine that drives this particular project is what we offer; the nexus, the intricate relationship between maritime, economy and national development and they generate wealth,” said Okoja.
According to Okoja, provisional approval to develop the Escravos Seaport Industrial Estate project in Delta state has been granted to the company.
He disclosed that Mercury Maritime Concession Company has written to the Nigerian Navy, and it has been granted approval for the Hydrographic department of the Navy to work with the company on the project, which will be delivered in phases including opening up of the waterways from Escravos via river Niger and Benue.
According to him, the first phase of the port project will opening up of the water channels along Escravos – Pantami – Onitsha, while phase two of the channelisation will be from Onitsha – Lokoja – Baro, and Onitsha – Lokoja – Markurdi.
Okoja said that the port project consists of the Escravos deep seaport, free trade zone (in three major layouts) oil and gas free trade zone, induatrial layouts to serve domestic purposes, independent power plant (IPP), golf course, development of prime infrastructure, new towns and cities, and international airport.
The MMCC chairman equally disclosed that there is an existing agreement with the Lagos state government to develop the Snake Island into Creek Industrial Estate (CIE) in partnership with the State Government.
On his part, Kristof Waterschoot, managing director of Port of Antwerp, said given the economic evolution of Nigeria; the need to develop newer ports to accommodate the growth potentials of the country is necessary in growing the volume of trade and economic outlook.
According to Waterschoot, it is very clear that the ports in Lagos will not be able to handle volumes of cargoes, hence the need to develop the Escravos deep seaport.
“We will need more maritime capacity and further opening up of the Nigeria economy just to cater for the people and the region. This is why we are really thinking also to encourage Nigerian government that additional investments by private and public sector in ports is vital for the long-term economic development of this country,” said Waterschoot.
Waterschoot however disclosed that the volume of cargo between Europe and Nigeria is around 5 million tons per year, which are mostly containers and pool related products. “Those are the biggest trade volumes between Port of Antwerp. If the right conditions are met, everything looks great for the economic future of Nigeria,” he added.