With the commissioning of Lekki Deep Seaport recently as well as five other ongoing seaport projects, Nigeria can be regarded as the hub of maritime activities in West Africa and the Central African region. This development signals huge economic benefits for Nigeria. The completion and take-off of the project was as a result of the efforts of promoters of national economic growth through public and private sector partnerships. To this people, the government cannot take on the business of economic development in Nigeria alone.
The project specifically costs $1.6 billion. It is a joint venture between the Federal Government of Nigeria (represented by the Nigerian Ports Authority [NPA]), the Lagos State Government, Tolarams Group (which are the owners of the Lagos Free Zone), and China Harbour Engineering Company—four in total. The seaport’s operations are run by a French company, CMA CGM Mozart. The Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria, Cui Jianchun, described the deep seaport as a model of “five parties from four countries.” According to the ambassador, the project is seen as a way of filling the gap that is created by other ports in Lagos, especially if their low draught is considered.
Lekki Deep Seaport can be the largest port in West Africa.
A deep seaport refers to the ports where sea-going vessels with draughts of at least 13.72 meters and above may harbor. Regular ports are not more than 20 feet deep. Whereas, deep seaports are compatible with large heavy-loaded ships which may require the water to be 30-feet deep or even more. In simpler terms, this kind of port allows access to large and heavily loaded vessels. Lekki Deep Seaport has 13 quay cranes for a capacity of 2.5 million TEUs on a 1.2-kilometre quay with a depth of 16 meters. It can operate vessels with a capacity of up to 15,000 TEUs and become one of the largest in West Africa. To put this in context, TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) is a measure of volume in units of twenty-foot long containers.
For example, large container ships are able to transport more than 18,000 TEU (a few can even carry more than 21,000 TEU). One 20-foot container equals one TEU. The port’s wet cargo terminal has the power to handle vessels with 45,000 dead weight tonnage (DWT); according to the management of the port, the terminal can be expanded to reach a capacity of 160,000 DWT. In the case of the dry bulk cargo terminal, the port has a quay length of 300m, which can take a Panamax class vessel (75,000 DWT).
Strict directive that trucks will not be allowed into the Lekki Deep Seaport.
The development of seaports in Nigeria will boost the nation’s economy. It will multiply economic and commercial activities in specific areas apart from the revenue being generated for the government. According to Nigeria’s transport minister, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, Lekki’s deep seaport would generate 170,000 jobs when operations commence. The Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, has said that the Authority is determined to leverage Nigeria’s status as Africa’s biggest economy to ensure the country becomes the maritime hub status in the West African region.
After the inauguration of the seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari, there are high expectations that FG will provide the necessary infrastructure to smoothen operations for shipping service providers and shippers. Many expect that the seaport will be linked with rails. However, what is certain for now is the deployment of barges for cargo movement. This follows the concerns that trucks may lead to gridlock in the Lekki area where the seaport is located, as has been the case in the Apapa port area. There are also concerns about the cost implication of the use of barges in the movement of cargo. The NPA is under the strict directive that trucks will not be allowed into the Lekki Deep Seaport to pick cargoes like what obtains in Apapa to avoid gridlock.
Attention will be shifted to other ongoing seaport projects.
Now that the Lekki Deep Seaport has been completed and commissioned, there are equally high expectations that attention will now shift to other deep seaport projects. Like the Lekki Deep Seaport, the NPA will coordinate the development of other deep seaports and other river ports across the country. Some of them include: Ibom Deep Seaport, which is being championed by the Akwa Ibom State government; Bakassi Deep Seaport, which the Cross River State Government is involved in; and Badagry Deep Seaport, which is in the domain of the Lagos State Government. There is also Bonny Deep Seaport in Rivers State and Ondo Deep Seaport in Ondo State. The Edo State Government is also championing the Benin River Port.