A maritime expert and professor at the Lagos Business School, Frank Ojadi, has called on the federal government 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.
Ojadi, who spoke on the imperatives of deep seaports in Nigeria (A case study of Lekki Deep Seaport), during a training programme for journalists in Lagos, described the $1.5 billion project as a noble idea, which would significantly boost the economy of the country.
He stated that deep seaport was essential because good nautical access was essential for maritime connectivity of ports.
Ojadi noted that deep seaports would create opportunities for transhipment operations, generate more employment, promote local shipping business and boost trade in the country.
He said some of the factors expected to be properly shaped for efficient delivery by the seaport include a well-articulated road and rail network and utilisation of inland waterways for efficient evacuation of cargoes that would be imported through the facility.
"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 and have no direct deep sea access," he said.
Specifically, he said, Panamax vessels make a direct port and discharge, and the bulk of their cargoes are delivered at a particular port while importers will have to move them to other destinations through feeder vessels, thereby the need for transhipment.
The maritime expert, however, urged the federal and state governments to begin to think of good road and rail networks as well as inland navigation to Lekki, considering the huge traffic that would be created by the deep seaport and Dangote Refinery, among the 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 to guarantee the viability of the many deep seaports springing up within the country.
Also speaking on the economic prospects of deep sea ports in the country, Chief Executive Officer, Ships and Ports Communications, Mr. Bolaji Akinola, said the multi-billion dollar projects cited in the Lekki Free Zone corridor may face access challenges if plans for road and rail infrastructure to evacuate products from the refinery and seaport were not immediately begun.
According to him, "the record year for containers in Nigeria was 2014, with throughput of 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 as what was recorded in the same period of 2014, which means that our economy is rebounding."
Noting that the Lagos ports terminals could handle 1.69 million TEUs conveniently with their current capacity at about two million TEUs, he said that deep seaport was welcome and very futuristic, adding that timely resolution of the infrastructure problems was necessary.
The federal government had recently pledged its total support to the management of Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise towards the actualisation of the $1.5billion Lekki Deep Sea Port project. President Muhammadu Buhari made the commitment at the flag-off of the project in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos.