Ahead of its commissioning in less than 90 days, sophisticated handling equipment that will place Lekki Port at the forefront of container operations in West Africa from September 2022 have been delivered to handle about 2.7 million Twenty Equivalent Units (TEUs) of containers yearly, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
Insufficient container traffic and unproductive Nigerian ports have made some shipping lines prefer other countries in West Africa due to lack of deep sea ports. Specifically, they favour calling at Togo, Ivory Cost and other neighbouring ports with deep channels where smaller vessels are fed, as well as where cargoes are interlined through the West- Mediterranean hubs. However, with the emergence of Lekki Port taking off in less than three months, the narration would change as it will dwarf the activities of other regional ports and increase commercial operations in the country and the entire West African region as transshipment hub. Currently at over 90 per cent completion, the $1.5 billion public P private partnership (PPP) port is jointly being promoted by China Harbour Engineering Company and Tolaram Group, the Lagos State government and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Last week Friday, the port took delivery of three super post Panamax Ships-to-Shore (STS) cranes and 10 Rubber Tyred Gantries (RTGs) from the first vessel to berth at the port. It was gathered that the cranes and the RTG equipment would be used in the container terminal to be operated by Lekki Freeport Terminal, a subsidiary of CMA CGM Group to handle more than 18,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). The vessel, Zhen Hua 28, which conveyed the STS cranes and RTGs to Nigeria, left Shanghai, China, on May 17, 2022, and arrived at Lekki Deep Sea Port at about noon Nigerian time on July 1, 2022.
The specifications of the STS cranes include a fixed rail line at the quayside to access vessels and reduce delays moving from bay to bay. For instance, the management of the port explained that the cranes could reach out from the quayside up to 61 metres and have an air draft of 52 metres and a span of 30.5 metres beneath the crane. Speaking after the vessel berthed, the Chairman of Lekki Port, Biodun Dabiri, noted that the Zhen Hua 28 vessel could only berth in Lekki Port and nowhere else in the country due to the depth of the draught at Lekki Port. He recalled how the port project was conceived during President Obasanjo’s presidency and since then, Lagos State governors, starting from Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola, Akinwunmi Ambode, and now Babajide Sanwoolu, have contributed immensely to the development of the port.
The chairman also acknowledged the contributions of Tolaram and China Harbour Engineering Company, the promoters of the project. The Managing Director of the port, Du Ruogang, explained that the cranes were highly sophisticated port equipment that would be used for the first time in Nigeria at Lekki Port, thereby putting Nigeria at the forefront of container operations in West Africa and on the global maritime map.
He explained: “This is the first batch of our port machinery; In August, we will mobilise the second batch of two STS and five RTGs. By the time of the formal commencement of the port operations, there would be five STand 15 RTGs in place.” He lauded the key stakeholders, including the Nigerian Port Authority, Lagos State government, China Habour Engineering Company and Tolaram, for their unflinching commitment to making port a reality. Also, he stressed that the port would relieve the congestion at Lagos and Tincan Island ports.
Ruogang noted that the port would become a catalyst and an economic enabler for Nigeria with this development. Also, the Chief Operating Officer of the port, Mr Laurence Smith, explained that cameras had been strategically equipped around the cranes to assist the operators with different angles to support the operation.
He said:“From a customer and stakeholder perspective, the STS can more than double the performance of any port crane in Nigeria today, positioning Lekki Port as the future preferred gateway into Nigeria and beyond. Lekki Port is indeed a game changer.” Also, the Managing Director of NPA, Mohammed Bello- Koko, described the delivery of the cranes as quite historic as it signifies the readiness of the promoters of the port to take trade facilitation a notch higher, while also optimising the opportunities of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement to which Nigeria is a signatory. Being the first fully automated port, he noted that it would contribute a great deal to enhancing port efficiency, adding that NPA, as a regulator, was ready to work assiduously, under the technical guidance of the International Maritime Organisation, in the deployment of the Port Community System (PCS) to enable it to respond squarely to the dictates of global trade facilitation. The General Manager of China Habour Engineering LFTZ Enterprise (CHELE), the EPC Contractor of the port, Xie Xianju also expressed his delight at the day’s events noting that Lekki Port is the first project in Africa for China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) which integrates investment, construction, and operations. He added that the project is of utmost priority to CHEC and China.
stressed that the port project would boost economy of Lagos through the creation of 170,000 jobs and approximately $201 billion in revenue to state and Federal agencies from taxes, royalties and duties. Lekki Port is to create direct and indirect business revenue impact of $158 billion in Nigeria when become operational. Also, approximately $20 billion is to be spent by the port on employee salaries during the concession period, while revenue to federal agencies from taxes, royalties and duties will amount to approximately $201 billion. It was gathered that the port would have an aggregate impact of $362 billion on Nigerian economy over the term of concession.
There is need for government to support the port with railway lines if it truly wants the port to become transshipment hub. Apart from serving the country, it will make other landlocked countries such as Chad, Niger and Burkina Faso to patronise Nigeria ports.