Lekki Deep Seaport: Changing the tide for Nigeria’s Maritime industry

Penultimate Friday, the Lekki Deep Seaport in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, received the first vessel to dock at the port carrying operations equipment, thus heralding the dream commencement of the commercial operations in a matter of weeks. SULEIMAN IDRIS reports.

At exactly 1: 30 pm on the mild sunny Friday, July 1st, when the vessel, ZHEN HUA 28, a heavy lift carrier, berthed at the quay of the Lekki Deep Seaport, the shout of joy and clapping by the ecstatic waiting crowds followed with the firework that lasted over 12 minutes, the gyrations by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) contingent led by the Managing Director, Mohammed Bello-Kuku, staff of Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited led by the Chairman, Mr. Biodun Dabiri and those of China Habour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise (CHELE), the EPC Contractor of the port, and a host of others tells of the historic importance the day was toward Nigeria’s fulfillment of the dream to birth a modern port that will compete with the best in the maritime world.
Pioneer vessel 

The pioneer vessel arrived the port with 3 Super Post Panamax Ships to Shore (STS) Cranes and 10 Rubber Tyred Gantries (RTG) that will aid prompt transfer of containers from anchoring vessels to the shore for onward transportations to desired locations. The cranes and the RTG equipment will be operated by Lekki Freeport Terminal, a subsidiary of CMA CGM Group. The arrival and installations of the advanced industry equipment is considered a major milestone and a significant boost ahead of the commencement of the port operations sometime in September this year.
An upbeat Mohammed Bello-Kuku, determined not to miss the historic moment the ZHEN HUA 28 berth at the port had arrived his office at the NPA Cooperate Headquarter in Marina on the Lagos Island a few minutes past 6: am on the red letter day to commence the 35 kilometer journey which ordinarily should last at least 42 minutes drive but with the chaotic traffic gridlock on the Victoria Island-Lekki-Epe road, he set sail in good time, thus arriving over an hour before the vessel touched the quay. 

The elated NPA helmsman could not hide the joy of his dream to birth a new modern sea port for Nigeria coming to fruition. Kuku said “what today’s event means is that the dream is becoming true, you can now see that fully it is possible, you can now see that all things been equal it is going to happen within the year 2022. It means that our plan to have an automated port is on stream. It means that our dream to have a maritime hub here in Nigeria is achievable. It is a dream that I think that we are already achieving it. It is now a matter of how many more weeks between now till September.’’
Nigeria the preferred hub for shipping companies

The $2 billion investment in the Lagos Free Trade Zone initiated by the Tolaram Group will no doubt make Nigeria the preferred hub for shipping companies and related maritime businesses and activities in the West and Central Africa sub-region. Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited was awarded the concession for 45 years by Nigerian Ports Authority on a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis.
Under the agreement, LPLEL is required to develop, finance, build, operate and, at the end of the concession term, transfer the port to NPA. LPLEL will earn revenues through operations of the port, while upon completion; Lekki Port will have a total of 3 container berths, 1 dry bulk berth and 3 liquid berths. On 21 April 2011, LPLEL entered into a Concession Agreement with NPA for the rights to build and operate the deep-sea port in Ibeju Lekki, Nigeria.
Economic importance to Nigeria
Since the concept of developing deep sea ports gain traction across the globe for decades now, records has shown that the development as an economic infrastructure has tremendously influence positively on the growth of countries that took the initiatives. A cursory look at the economic history of Britain, Netherlands, and Singapore, reputedly referred to as the maritime powers in the world, undoubtedly proves the important role such ports has played in the development of their economies. Also, Bangladesh, an Asian country in the same economic belt as Nigeria, the establishment of a deep-sea port has become strategically very critical for the country looking at its potential impact on the country’s development and economic growth.

As such, the development of the Lekki Deep Sea Port signposts a change of tide for Nigeria’s economy and its maritime industry that has hitherto play second fiddle to ports in smaller West Africa countries of Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Much as port economics and macroeconomics are closely interrelated, the expected changes in port traffic from the congested Apapa and other neigbhouring ports in the sub-region into the deep sea port couple with the world class operations and organization of the Lekki Deep Sea Port will have a significant impact on the Nigerian economy especially on the hinterland and facilitate anticipated renewed maritime trades between Nigeria and the countries of Chad and Niger, two countries that somehow abandoned Nigeria ports for sometimes.

170,000 new jobs
According to projection by the company, ‘’Lekki Deep Sea Port will have significant positive impact estimated at $361 billion over the terms of concession. It is expected to contribute more than $200 billion to the government exchequer and create close to 170,000 new jobs. Furthermore, Lekki Port will spur the economic development around the Lekki sub-region and the wider Lagos State through rapid industrialization.’’
On its macro economic impact, the Lekki port is projected to have a direct economic impact of 169,972 jobs to be created from port operations with approximately US$ 20 billion to be spent on employee salaries while revenue to state and federal agencies from taxes, royalties and duties is put at approximately US$ 201 billion over the 45 years period of operations.
Huge impact on Nigerian economy
The catalytic economic impact will also bring about a direct and induced business revenue impact of $158 billion while its qualitative impact on manufacturing, trade and commercial services sector will see the Lekki Port have an aggregate impact of approximately $361 billion on Nigerian economy over the term of concession, meaning the project will offer a multiplier effect of more than 230 times of it total cost.

According to the NPA Managing Director, Bello-Kuku, the whole concept and design of the port makes it the darling of any would be importer and shipping companies.
Kuku-Bello explained that the Lekki Deep Seaport with a draught of 17 metres, a 680 metres quay length and 1.909 metres breakwater on completion will have three berths for containers, a jetty for its marine service to handle containers and liquid and dry bulk cargoes.
Features will dwarf any other ports in the sub-region
Stakeholders believe that the above features will dwarf any other ports in the sub-region and thus return Nigeria to its prime position of being maritime hub as country already hitherto account for 70 percent of cargoes that are ship into West and Central Africa.

Also corroborating Bello-Kuku, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited Chairman, Mr. Biodun Dabiri noted that ‘’Today (July 1st) for us is an historic event. This is a vision that was conceived 13 years ago. This event will begin to deliver Nigeria as a regional hub for maritime business. These cranes will enhance the transformation business of the deep sea port. The draught of this sea is about 16.5 meters and the vessel itself can only take about 14.5, the implication of this is that there is nowhere in this country this vessel can berth. This is what makes it historic. The port will be fully automated, it will be an efficient port that will transform the maritime business and make Nigeria a regional hub, whatever ingredient you will talk about in terms of growth of the country’s GDP, is it diversification of foreign exchange? Is it creation of employment? Is it adding values to peoples’ lives and prosperity around the communities here? That is what this project is all about. I thank the Federal Government. This will be a prelude to the grand finale before the end of the year.’’

The first fully automated port at take-off 
The enthusiastic Bello-Kuku in his address at the reception of the ZHEN HUA 28 ceremony affirmed that “For us at the NPA, the coming on stream of Lekki symbolises a lot of positives. Apart from being Nigeria’s first Deep Seaport, Lekki Port will also be the first fully automated port at take-off.