• Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

LEKKI DEEP SEAPORT: Association Calls For Quick Intervention To Avoid Disaster

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA), and the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, (STOAN), yesterday unanimously agreed that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, the Lekki deep seaport will by no means pose a threat to the already existing Lagos ports comprising of Apapa and Tincan island ports.

The organizations which made their positions on the matter known at a one day retreat/lecture with the theme, “Lekki Deep Seaport: Identifying the Gains, Challenges and Potential Threats to Lagos Ports”, organized by the League of Maritime Editors in Lagos argued that rather than compete with the Lagos ports, the Lekki deep seaport would on complement them.

Lekki Deep Seaport which has just been completed is a disaster waiting to happen except adequate infrastructural needs of the seaport are addressed, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN) said Thursday.

Spokesman of STOAN, Dr. Bolaji Akinola, said what the deep seaport needs urgently was rail connectivity to the port considering the traffic issue being suffered in the area.

Akinola who spoke on the occasion of a retreat organized by the League of Maritime Editors in Lagos said it takes those going to the area between 3 to 4 hours before arriving their destination.

He pointed out that if this was the case now that the seaport is yet to start full cargo operation, it could worsen in future.

He maintained that what could address the situation was rail connectivity and use of barges.

Bolaji who represented the Chairman of STOAN, Princess Vicky Haastrup, said, “The Lekki port without rail evacuation is a disaster in waiting for traffic operations along the Lekki-Epe expressway. I go to the Pan Atlantic University in Ibeju-Lekki from Ikoyi once a week. Every time I go towards that axis, I spend three hours on the road, stuck in traffic, going to Lekki, and another three hours coming from Lekki to Ikoyi.

“This is currently the situation even when we don’t have large numbers of trucks on that road because Lekki port has not commenced operations. By the time Lekki port commences operations and about a thousand trucks besiege Lekki roads, traffic along that corridor will be a disaster”.

“Unless cargoes are evacuated through other means like barges, the commencement of Lekki port which will invite large numbers of trucks to that corridor will lead to another traffic gridlock along that axis.”

However, the Managing Director of the NPA, Mohammed Bello-Koko, allayed fears that the Lekki Deep seaport will pose a big threat to the existing Apapa and Tin Can Island ports.

Bello Koko who presented a Paper titled; “Lekki Deep Seaport: Gains, Challenges and Potential Threat To Lagos Port”, described the new deep seaport as changing the landscape of port operations even with constraints of hinterland connectivity.

The MD who was represented on the occasion by the NPA’s Assistant General Manager, Operations, Mr. Ayo Durojaiye, said: “It is worthy of note that with the level of preparedness for the take-off of Lekki Port and the commencement of commercial operations in Q1 2023 would be a game changer in port operations not only in Nigeria but West Africa sub-region”

He identified the key features of the seaport as having berth depth of 16.5m, which according to him was the deepest in the sub-region.

He also said the seaport would be hosting post-panamax vessels with “deployment of the state-of-the-art modern cargo-handling equipment including six (6) Ship-to-Shore Gantry Cranes with a reach of 21 Containers and twin-lift capability, modern scanners to entrench trade facilitation ideals.

He explained that the implication of the above developments means that the “ level of efficiency would be very high and with the hosting of post-Panamax vessel.

“Consequently, the cost per Container Box would be very low compared with the existing Ports in Lagos thereby leveraging on economies of scale. These Liners would be encouraged to use Lekki Port as they seek to minimize operational costs to maximize their profits”.

Bello Koko said the Lekki Deep Seaport would be positioned to function as Hub for Container traffic both in the sub-region and for LPC and TCIP which will eventually be hosting feeder vessels for Container traffic coming to Lagos areas.

He added, “Linked to above is that the expected Cargo Throughput in Lekki Port would be high given its role as a hub which comes with double handling operations.

“Reduction in the cost of doing business owing to benefit of economies of scale accruable.

“Nigerian port system would ultimately be mainstreamed into global port system given the competitive advantage it offers.

“There seems to be morbid fear by stakeholders that the emergence of Lekki Deep-sea Ports may signal the death or possibly turn the existing ports in Lagos area to tourist site. This is simply a fallacy.

The Deep-sea port operates by principle of Hub and Spoke. As a derivative to this, the existing port will simply function as a Feeder port i.e when big vessels call at Lekki, other ports would be fed with their own market share. In other words, the existing port would function as regional port to serve destination cargo of their catchment area”.

The Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col Hammed Ali (Rtd) in his speech said the choice of the topic handled by Bello Koko was very apt and coming at the most auspicious moment when it has become necessary to decongest the existing ports.

Ali who was represented on the occasion by the Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, ACG Adeyanju Aremu, said when completed the Lekki Deep Seaport will position Lagos as a new maritime logistics hub in West Africa while also helping Nigeria to m attain full economic leadership in the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement.

“It will also directly benefit local communities by creating massive jobs and enormous revenue in the coming decades”, he said.

On his part, the Customs Area Controller of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Apapa command, Comptroller Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf maintained that Lekki deep seaport was not a threat to Lagos ports while warning that a strategy must be put in place to sensitize stakeholders on the purpose of the port.

Yusuf revealed that about that 15 percent of the cargo originally meant for Lagos ports were going to that Lekki axis adding that all the cargo that would be going to Lekki deep seaport when operational would be consumed there and that will give a relief to the Nigerian ports.

“What I mean here is that we have structures like the Dangote Free Trade Zone, Dangote Fertilizers, Dangote Refineries coming up, Lekki Free Trade Zone, Lagos Free Trade Zone and Alero Free Trade Zone. There’s even Eko Atlantic there and all these structures have a lot of importation going to that place and most of the importations going to that place are being consumed in that place or within that environment.

“So, the aim is to relieve the mother port here from those kind of cargoes. We have a lot of liquid cargoes coming here and being stored in this place and from here you move it to that place. So, why not have it there and consume it there or process it there? I think the point is for us to understand what the niches are and the purpose”, he said.

Hyacinth Beluchukwu Nwafor

Hyacinth Beluchukwu Nwafor is a seasoned journalist and the CEO/Founder Belch Digital Communications, publishers of Hybrid News Nigeria.

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