Nigeria is once again shot into global reckoning with proposed Lekki Port project designed to be an integrated, modern and multi-purpose port which will leverage on a number of physical and economic advantages offered by Africa.
The port which will come on stream in the third quarter of 2016, will also be the hub of maritime in the West Africa.
Observers are of the opinion that the proposed port can revolutionize the country's maritime sector with spiral economic growth as well as aid Nigeria's quest to be among the 20 best economies in the world by 2020.
Conceptualised as a multi product industrial and logistics hub, it will spread across 90 hectares of land and shall be built at an estimated cost of $1.55billion.It is proposed to have 1.5km long breakwater, 6km long approach channel with 19.5m draught, 670m diameter turning circle and 1.5km long quay wall.
In terms of handling capacity, the port will have three container vessels of 8000 TEU capacity, one 45,000 DWT liquid bulk vessel and one 75,000 DWT dry bulk vessel.
Handlers of the project, LFTZ Enterprize said the port will be equipped with the best infrastructure and terminal services to attract and maintain large volume shipping line customers.
Managing Director of the company Mr Haresh Aswani said the Lekki Port has engaged the services of global consultants in order to ensure smooth and efficient operations.
These consultants include: Louis Berger Group Inc., Delta Marine Consultants, Berger ABAM and TBA Netherlands.
He said the container terminal has been sub-concessioned to International Container Terminal Services Inc, Philippines, a leader in the container terminal operations with a footprint across the globe.
The company's boss said the project will increase capacity in the first stage to 1.5 million containers yearly, graduating to 2.7 million and ultimately 4.5 million in about five to seven years of operation, to make up for the current huge capacity gap.
He said due to this lack of capacity, the big ships berth first in Europe or South Africa, while the small ones feed from them down to Nigeria.
According to him, to address this, his company was dredging to 16 metres to enable ships with 8,000 to 10,000 TUs containers come in.
He said, "What that means is that shipping companies can go from port to port to drop as much goods and then move on, that's number one. Then, the cost of bringing goods will fall. For example, the shipping cost is not just size but also fuel, but the fuel doesn't go up four times because the ship size is four times, it goes up only 50 percent, depending on the level of use. Certainly, when you get such large ships, you actually are becoming environment-friendly because less ships are coming, you use less fuel eventually in transporting that large amount."
Last year, the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Lagos State Government and Lekki Port Investment Holding Incorporated - the lead promoters of Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise, signed a shareholders agreement for equity participation in Lekki Port.
According to the agreement, NPA will hold 20 percent in the project, Lagos State government 18.15 percent, while foreign investors, led by the Tolaram Group, Singapore through LPIHI will take up the balance of 61.85 percent.
Managing Director NPA Mr Habib Abdullahi explained that Lekki Port will contribute greatly to the Nigerian economy saying, "The project will enhance the country's economy because the federal government has identified the maritime sector as one that has a great potential of boosting the country's revenue."
Lagos Commissioner for Commerce and Industry Mrs Olusola Oworu said the project was conceived out of the need to have a modern and truly deep-sea port that can accommodate large vessels.
The Managing Director, Tolaram Group in Nigeria, Mr Haresh Aswani said the signing of the agreement demonstrated how the public and private sectors can collaborate to create a world-class infrastructure for Nigeria. He said, "The development of Lekki Port through this partnership exemplifies Nigeria's readiness for Foreign Direct Investment."
Aswani said the economic implication of the proposed port to Nigeria is unimaginable stressing that in addition to bridging the capacity deficit, the port will have significant positive macroeconomic impact estimated at $361 billion over the entire concession period.
According to him, it is expected to contribute more than $200 billion to the government exchequer while also creating close to 163,000 new jobs in the economy. "Furthermore, Lekki Port will spur the economic development around the Lekki sub-region and on a wider perspective, the whole of Lagos State through rapid industrialisation," he added.
Director General of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mr Muda Yussuf told our correspondent in a chat that the port will spur economic development of the country. According to him, the fact that the port will accommodate bigger vessels is a big boost to port users, especially against the backdrop of the raging congestion at the nation's ports.
"I think the planned Lekki Port is a big boost to ports system in Nigeria because there's pressure on the existing ones which though have been built over 40 years ago have not been expanded with the significant trade growth," he nted.
A maritime expert, Mr Samson Adetayo told our correspondent that Lekki Port can improve maritime business and aid the nation's industrialization policy.
Progress of works
The port planned to be developed in phases has phase one expected to be operational by 2015. The layout of the new port, including the layout of approach channel, turning circle and harbour basins has been derived from optimisations based on port operations, construction costs and possible future extensions.
Two different breakwater concepts were applied for the main breakwater: A rubble mound with geo-bag core for the near-shore sections and a composite breakwater for the more exposed sections.
The secondary breakwater was replaced by a barrier. The barrier consists of a core from sand, internally fortified by a protective geo-bag layer, a revetment on the harbour side and an artificial beach on the seaward side.
Local community optimistic
Already the host community is counting gains. Mr Mukandas Ogidan, the Chairman, Lekki Local Council Development Area (LCDA) said the council has concluded plans to upgrade its various tourist sites.
Speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Friday, Ogida said the sites are the detention camp building where the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was confined, the house of the Portuguese, the French Trader building made of burnt bricks, Eko Tourist Centre and Hermitage Resort Centre.
He said the decision of the council to upgrade the sites is to give the monuments befitting look and to attract tourists to the area. "A lot of development projects have been put in place to boost tourism in the local government to encourage investors to invest in the community. The local government is equally making frantic effort in ensuring that tourism and resort centres in the area have pleasurable accommodation, security and proper infrastructure," he said.
Ogidan said Lekki community is endowed with natural resources such as the beaches, creeks, islands, detention camp, monument and historical centres that can attract tourists to the area.
He said the community is blessed with viable places of interest which can be developed into profitable and enjoyable tourist attractions adding that the council is also ready to promote cultural festivals such as Ebi, Oro, Epa and Egungun within the community.