‘Why Nigeria should perfect operations of deep seaports’

Akinola


• Nigeria may record higher container throughput this year

The Federal Government has been urged to ensure perfect operations of deep seaports in the country, particularly the Lekki Deep seaport in Lagos, which is expected to kick off in the next two years.Some of the factors expected to be properly shaped for efficient delivery by the seaport include; a well articulated road and rail network; and utilization of inland waterways for efficient evacuation of cargoes that would be imported through the facility.

Experts who spoke on the imperatives of deep seaports in Nigeria (A case study of Lekki deep seaport) during training for journalists in Lagos described the $1.5 billion project as a noble idea, which would significantly boost the economy of the country.A professor at Lagos Business School and Maritime expert, Frank Ojadi, said a deep seaport is essential because good nautical access is essential for maritime connectivity of ports.

He said: “Over the last decades, ships have rapidly become bigger and deeper: for example the draft of the largest container ships at this moment is approximately 14.5 meters, which is deeper than what most ports can accommodate. Port depth thus becomes a competitive advantage for attracting the largest ships and a challenge for many ports that are estuary ports and that have no direct deep sea access,”Ojadi however noted that deep seaports would create opportunities for transshipment operations, generates more employment, promote local shipping business and boost trade in the country.

According to him, Panamax vessels make a direct port and discharge, and bulk of their cargoes are delivered at a particular port while importers will have to move them to other destination through feeder vessels, thereby emphasizing the need for transshipment.The University Don however noted that the federal and state governments should begin to think of good road and rail network as well as inland navigation to Lekki considering the huge traffic that would be created by the deep seaport and Dangote refinery among other major projects cited in that area.

He expressed worries that the Senate Committee on Ports Harbours and Waterways and the Nigerian Shippers’ Council have earlier identified this issue, but nothing concrete has been done.Ojadi said the government has to do proper planning in other to guarantee the viability of the many deep seaports that are springing up around the country.

Another industry expert and Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports Communications, Bolaji Akinola, said the multi-billion dollar projects cited in the Lekki Free Zone corridor may face access challenges if the Federal Government does not immediately kick of plans for road and rail infrastructure to evacuate products from the refinery and seaport.

“Apapa will be child’s play, when the problem of accessibility begin to stair us in the face at Lekki. That area is highly congested already, so we can imagine what will happen when the trucks and petroleum tankers joins the traffic,” he said.“The record year for containers in Nigeria was 2014, and the container throughput was 1.6 million TEUs. That has been the highest so far in the history of this country. Since then we have had a plunge, but I see this year matching 2014 records. The records are already there because the throughput in first quarter 2018 is as good what was recorded in the same period 204, which means that our economy is rebounding.

He said the Lagos ports are still very functional and there is no congestion as erroneously believed.“There is nothing like congestion inside the port. The terminal operators can handle that 1.69 million TEUs conveniently and the capacity of container terminals in Nigeria today is about 2 million TEUs. I f deep seaport is going to come up, we should be futuristic about it and we should also resolve the infrastructure problems around the existing ports,” he said.

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