By Stephen Ubanna
Nigeria shipers are very happy. The Nigerian shipers source of happiness was the completion and commissioning of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The Nigerian President was optimistic that the multi-million dollar project will be completed and commissioned before the Administration wound up on May 29, 2023, when information filtered out from the Chinese contractor that ‘’the dredging and reclamation of the port has reached 98.43%, contruction of quay wall ,96.07%, breakwater 93% andlandside Infrastructure ,90.61% completion , meaning that the project has reached 95.65 completion as at September , 2022.
Recall that the commencement of major construction work at the Lekki Deep seaport site was flagged off on March 29, 2018, barely three years, into the first term of office of the Katsina state born Nigerian President. With the support of the Nigerian President, Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and immediate past minister of Transportation, and Eng. Muazu Jaji Sambo, the incumbent minister , were said to have piled up pressure on the Asian country of China Habour Engineering Company Limited , handling the Construction of the port to facilitate the work to ease the burden of cargo shipment flow at the Lagos ports.
It was therefore,not surprising why the International Consortium of partners , Tolaram, China Harbour Engineering Company, Louis Berger International, CMACGN , led by Lekki Port Investment Holdings Incorporated, which owned 75% stake , and which believed in the Commercial viability of the project were said to have committed adequate financial investments into it . The Lagos state government stake in the multi-million dollar project is 20% while the Nigerian government, controls five percent shareholding .
The engagement of the Engineering, Procurement and Contronstruction EPC, contractor, the Asian country of China Harbour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise, Limited, CHELE, , a subsidiary of China Harbour Engineering Company may have introduced the essential technology to facilitate the completion of the project without further delay.
In completing the first phase of the $1.5 billion project , which according to NPA, sources that has two Container berths, marine services jetty to handle the Containers, the Chinese firm, CHEC, was said to have spent $581 million.
The Container Terminal, according to Mohan Vaswani was built and equipped with the capacity to handle 1.2 million 20 foot equivalent units, TEUs, of Containers annually. He noted that upon completion of the entire $1.5 billion Lekki Deep project , it would have three Container berths .
Mohammed Bello-koko, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, has described he multi-million dollar project as ‘’the largest , most modern and deepest seaport in the West and Central African sub-regions.
Denrick Moos, the Chief Executive Officer, CEO, Lekki Freeport Terminal , that is currently being operated by CMA Terminals , a subsidiary of the CMA CGM Group, had said that the state of the art of infrastructures at the port would make it become’’ Nigeria’s new generation container terminal, a game changer infrastructure in the West and Central African sub-regions’’.
Given an insider information of the Engineering design of the three Liquid berths of the port, Belo-Koko,the NPA, Mnaging Director, had said that that the port was designed to service ships up to 160, 000 DWT ,with a with a reach of of 21 Containers and twin –lift capability.turning circle of about 600 m, that is sufficient to handle 18,00 TEU vessels.
In preparing the port for Commissioning on Monday, January 23, 2023, by President Buhari, NPA, had procured Tug boats expected to be used in the moving the vessels calling at the port The Tug boats were said to have been equipped with the latest super –post Panamax, ship to –shore cranes and rubber-tired- gantry cranes.M
As a prelude to show that the Authority is fully prepared to offer the required marine services for seamless port operations, for big ocean going vessels, to the port, the first CMACGM, vessel was said to have arrived the Lekki Deep seaport on Sunday, January 23, 2022, ahead of President Buhari’s Commissioning of the project in readiness for Commercial Operations, on Monday, January 23, 2023.
The successful berthing of the he Panama vessel at the largest port in Nigeria, may have opened the door way for other big -ocean shipping Companies which such vessels to call at the port with cargos to discharge.
Buhari, who could not hide his feelings Had told those cares listen that the multi-million dollar facility would have an aggregate impact of about $361 billion on Nigeria’s economy in the next 45 years that the Concessionaire will operate port before transferring it to the government.
The port model, arrangement ,according Bello-Koko, the NPA, helmsman which s based on ‘’Build, Operate and Transfer, BOOT, by the Concessionaire would expire next 45 years. The NPA boss , had said that the Lekki Deep seaport would be positioned ‘’to function as a hub for container traffic both in the West African sub-region and the Tincan Island port expected to be hosting the feeder vessels for Container traffic coming to Lagos areas.
In spite of the fact that that Buhari has commissioned the Lekki Deep seaportProject, maritime analysts fear that it may suffer a major seback because ‘’ there is no space and hinterland connectivity for cargo evacuation’’.
More worrisome is the fact that there is no rail connectivity and that even the road connection was grossly inadequate. This is where the Concessionaire may have to embrace Barge operations in the short –run, and which should not’’ foreclose the need formulti-modalism and inter-modalism that should guarantee the Liquidity of cargo evacuation and ultimately efficiency of port operations’’, the NAPA, Managing Director had said.
The Comissioning of the first phase I of the Leeki Deep seaport is coming barely seven months and 13 days, after the President had had launched the $195 million assets under the integrated National Security and Waterways Protection nfrastructure , popuar, Deep Blue Project, managed by Jamoh, led NIMASA, in synergy with other security agencies: the Nigerian Navy, Army, Nigerian Air Force, and the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, among others.
Jamoh, had said that the deployment of the maritime security assets of the Deep Blue Project would bring Nigeria to another level of national security for total spectrum maritime security and better domain awareness using some of the latest technology.
The maritime assets include the Command, Control, Communication, Computer and intelligence Unit, c4, for intelligence gathering and collection, 16 Armoured vehicles for coastal control, , 17 Fast Interceptor Boats, , two Special Mission Vessels, SMV, two Special Mission aircrafts, SMA, for surveillance of the country’s exclusive Economic Zone, EEZ,, three Special Mission Helicopters, for Search and Rescue Operations and four Unmanned Aerial vehicles, including 600 trained troops for interdiction.
Many believe that members of that Nigerian Shippers, Association, NISA, may lose the major gains of the huge investments in the LeKki Deep seaport by the partners if they fail to take advantage of the Vessel Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund . CVFF, to acquIre vessels to partake in the global trade.
Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, had confirmed that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under the close watch of Godwin Emefiele, at the promptings of the President has approved ’zero duty for imported new vessels with older ones attracting higher duty.
Given that the Nigerian President has approved the CVFF, which an insider had aid is currently in excess of $350 million for disbursement at the official exchange rate to assist NISA members to procure ocean going vessels for the nation, they appear to be forward to Eng .Sambo, the minister of Transportation to give the nod to NIMASA, who in turn should give the banks the go ahead the to start the disbursement to assist the shippers to procure vessels
This is because foreigners have continued to dominate the nation’s shipping sector over years because they have the capital to come into the country with their ship and take the money away.
Jamoh, the NIMASA, boss, had said that the only way the Indigenous shipowners can stop the foreigners from taking over the country’s coastal trade will be to get the CVFF, based on agreement with any of the five banks selected for the purpose . The government had selected UBA,Zenith , Polaris, Jaiz, and Union Banks for the disbursement of the fund.