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Experts seek improved transport infrastructure for cargo movement in Lekki seaport

Thursday, 14 June 2018 | 00:00

Industry experts have called on Federal Government to ensure perfect operations of deep seaports in the country, especially the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos, expected to kick off in the next two years.

According to them, a functional inter-modal transport system that ensures effective movement of cargo from the port using road, rail and inland waterways, would help to eliminate the problems associated with Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports from repeating itself in Lekki.
Speaking on the ‘Imperatives of Deep Seaports in Nigeria, a Case Study of Lekki Deep Seaport,’ during a training programme for journalists in Lagos on Monday, they described the $1.5 billion project as a noble idea that would significantly boost the economy of the country.

Frank Ojadi, a maritime expert and professor at the Lagos Business School, said deep seaport was essential because good nautical access was essential for port connectivity.

“Over the last decades, ships have rapidly become bigger and deeper. For example, the draft of the largest container ships in Nigeria at this moment is approximately 14.5 meters, which is deeper than what most ports can accommodate. Port depth has become a competitive advantage for attracting the largest ships,” Ojadi said.

He noted that deep seaports would create opportunities for trans-shipment operations, generate more employment, promote local shipping business, and boost trade in the country.

According to Ojadi, the bulk of cargoes carried by Panamax vessels are delivered at a particular port while importers will have to move them to other destinations through feeder vessels, thus the need for trans-shipment.

He 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 (NSC) had earlier identified this issue, but nothing concrete had been done.

The government has to do proper planning to guarantee the viability of the many deep seaports springing up within the country, he said.
Also speaking on the economic prospects of deep sea ports in the country, Bolaji Akinola, CEO, Ships and Ports Communications, said the multi-billion dollar projects cited in the Lekki Free Zone corridor might face access challenges if plans for road and rail infrastructure to evacuate products from the refinery and seaport were not immediately begun.

According to Akinola, “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, the throughput 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 2 million TEUs, he said deep seaport was welcome and very futuristic, adding that timely resolution of the infrastructure problems was necessary.
Source: Business Day

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