By ADAKU WALTER
Over the years, Nigeria continues to lose revenue and investments due to multiple bottlenecks at the nation’s ports exacerbated by diversion of cargoes to neighbouring countries. ADAKU WALTER writes that Federal Government’s has been intensifying efforts to regain the losses and position the country as the maritime hub of West and Central Africa region.
Poor infrastructure, cumbersome clearing processes and other challenges have made Nigeria to lose trans-shipment and transit cargoes to neighbouring countries thereby jeopardising the country’s chance of becoming a regional maritime hub.
Landlocked countries like Chad and the Republic of Niger, which, before now, were using the country’s ports as transit points for their cargoes, have been diverting their shipments to Ghana, Togo, Republic of Benin, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon.
Reports indicate that most importers divert Nigeria-bound cargoes to the neighbouring countries just as investors shun the nation’s ports and patronise other destinations, which costs Nigeria an estimated N130 billion yearly.
The challenges have restricted the country from reaching its heights in the maritime sector, which is one of the highest contributors to the economies of other countries.
The neighbouring countries capitalise on the shortcomings in Nigeria’s maritime sector to assume trans-shipment hub status as they are rapidly developing into modern seaports with automated facilities and infrastructure as well as deeper draught that could accommodate larger vessels with Nigeria-bound cargoes.
While the ports in neighbouring countries could accommodate vessels with 16 metres draught, no Nigerian seaports is capable of accommodating such vessels due to shallow draught of as low as 13 meters.
It was learnt that the draught level of Togo is 15.5 metres, Republic of Benin has 15 metres, Ghana has close to 19 metres, while Cameroun has 16 metres.
Already, Togo has overtaken Nigeria to become the leading port in West Africa, as the United Nations (UN) report showed that Togo recorded 1,725, 520 twenty-foot equivalent (TUEs) of cargo throughput in 2020, while Nigeria recorded 1, 528, 520 TUEs, thereby losing over 196, 750 TUEs or 30 per cent of container traffic to the Lome Port.
Also, ports within the region have positioned themselves and are ready for participation in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) regime.
Meanwhile, stakeholders in the country’s maritime sector have advised the Federal Government to design deep seaport and trans-shipment centre to accommodate large vessels and mega-ships of between 8,000 and 20, 000 TEUs currently being demanded regionally and globally, which they said, was the only solution to diversion of cargoes to neighbouring ports.
Also, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) stated that with the country accounting for over 70 per cent of the cargoes imported to West and Central Africa, developing modern deep seaports would translate to huge potential for revenue earning for the nation along with the attendant socio-economic benefits.
Worried by the loss of the maritime hub status and revenues due to the inadequacies of the country’s seaports, the Federal Government and Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Limited signed a 45- year concession to develop a deep sea and multipurpose port in Lagos State.
With a draught level of 16.5 metres, Quay wall of 1,523 meters and turning circle of 600 meters, the Lekki port is projected to be one of the most modern deep seaports in West Africa, which will support the burgeoning commercial operations in Nigeria and reposition the country as the maritime hub of the region.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, expressed confidence that the commencement of operations at the port would strengthen the country’s maritime sector to meet the growing demands for goods transported by sea.
Also, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, during a recent tour of the port, said when completed, the port would make Nigeria to regain the maritime business it lost to ports in Togo, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.
He explained that it would also boost the country’s quest to take advantage of the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which he said, was capable of generating over $201 billion in taxes, royalties and duties, as well as create no fewer than 169,972 jobs when the port commences full operations at the end of the year.
Mohammed pointed out that the aggregate economic impact of the port, put at $361 billion in 45 years, will be over 200 times the cost of building the port, adding that the direct and induced business revenue impact of the port has been estimated at $158 billion in addition to impact on the manufacturing, trade and commercial services sectors.
“No port in Nigeria currently has this. The equipment is why the port can do 18,000 TEUs, which is over four times the number that can currently be handled by the other ports,” he said.
He explained that with regulatory agencies as the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Department of State Security (DSS), Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), Port Health Services (PHS), Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), the Federal Government’s ease of doing business would be achieved at the port
On the readiness of the Lekki port to help country attain its regional maritime hub agenda, Architect of the project, Matthew Oloyede, explained that with the automated infrastructure, the port will be capable of accommodating the largest and post-Panamax vessels.
“With power plant generation of 16 megawatts, we will have an efficient port where all operations are automated. We are competing with other neighbouring ports in terms of automation. Containers will pass through our scanners and not the usual physical examination process, which will reduce the clearing time.
Also, Managing Director of the Lekki Deep Sea Port, Du Ruogang, assured that it would change the economic landscape of Nigeria and West Africa with its largest terminal capacity, adding that the operators will have a more integrated terminal operating system, not only to drive the functionality of the port, but also its e-commerce.
Ruogang added that the competitive edge of the port remained its ability to accept larger vessels and discharge ships twice as fast, thereby reducing the overall port stay of vessels, as well as the costs for importers and exporters minimally, while ensuring savings for consumers.
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