By GODFREY BIVBERE
Management of the Lekki Port (LFTZ) Enterprises has said that the deepest port in the continent when completed would service consumers in the West and Central Africa subregion.
Disclosing this in Lagos, Executive Director of the firm, John Mastoroudes, said apart from having the advantage overÂ Calabar Free Trade Zone in terms of consumer base, the port would also provide a development platform for investors through the company-oriented operation mode of sea port infrastructure.
â€œUnlike the Calabar Free Trade Zone, the Lagos zone has the advantage of having the largest consumer market in Africa with over 500 million potential consumers in both Nigeria and the surrounding countries. The Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) will also provide a perfect development platform for investors, by using the company-oriented operation mode which is a sea port infrastructure. The Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise will cover an area of 500 hectares when it is fully developed. It will also have the capability of handling all types of cargo including containers, liquid bulk and dry bulk,â€ he said.
Mastoroudes also explained that the port would be the first â€œdeepwater port in Nigeria that will allow Suezmax (the largest naval carriers) ships to enter Nigerian waters. He pointed out that the size and scale of the port combined with its modern cargo handling and storage infrastructure would make it the ideal transhipment hub with the capacity to service the entire West African coast.
He further noted that the new port, when completed, would lay the foundation for a significant shift in Nigeriaâ€™s position from an exporter of natural resources into a regional industrial powerhouse. The project which will be operational in phases and will be fully operational by 2014, employs 350 people with a foreseeable 5,000 more to be employed over the next few years, he stated.
The Lekki Port boss also disclosed that the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) Act is to be amended to allow private ports in the country. He however complained about the non existence of the legal frame work and the enabling legislation for the full operation of a private port.
He noted that since about 3,000 containers are expected to be moved from the port daily, it is imperative for good road network to be on ground before the port becomes fully operational while other infrastructure are also expected to be ready.
Mastoroudes who expressed concerns about the political and economic uncertainties in the country, however reinstated his faith in Nigeria, noting further that â€œwe are dealing with government, not people.â€
A chieftain of the firm, Peter Banham, had in the past told Vanguard that the terminal once competed will require about 1200 employees and this equates to about 5,000 additional indirect jobs. In addition ancillary port and transport related industries will also benefit.
Banham had said then that they would curb congestion by investing in the latest state of the art container handling equipment, as well as modern handling practices to ensure congestion would not be an issue at Lekki Port.
On when the port is expected to commence operations, he explained that â€œby late summer 2011 the port will be fully operational and ready by 2012 to allow tankers accessâ€.