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Interrogating Udom’s deep seaport and industrial city dreams

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Akwa Ibom, Udom Emmanuel
Governor Emmanuel Udom, of Akwa Ibom state

By Philip Usoro

FOLLOWING his re-election for a second term in March, the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, unveiled what he called a ‘Completion Agenda’.

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According to him, his major target is to sustain the industrialisation and investments policies before the end of his administration in 2023 with a view to birthing the Ibom Industrial City and Ibom Deep Seaport.

The Ibom deep seaport project is part of the Ibom  Industrial City development through a public private partnership arrangement.

The deep seaport, although a part of the industrial city, is treated as a separate project. The Ibom deep seaport will be owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigeria Ports Authority in partnership with Akwa Ibom State Government and private investors.

On the other hand, the Ibom Industrial City project will be solely owned by Akwa Ibom State Government. Both projects will utilise the state’s unique location to promote industrialisation in the region by developing a modern state-of-the art industrial city which will include a deep sea port. The Ibom  Deep Seaport is in line with the Federal Ministry of Transportation, FMoT, plans to augment port capacity in Nigeria and is a key component of Akwa Ibom’s economic empowerment plans.

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The Ibom deep seaport will occupy 2,565 hectares of land area of the 14,517 hectares available for the industrial city project. The project site is strategically located and accessible through major existing and planned transport infrastructure such as airport, railway lines and federal and state road networks. The IDSP and IIC project site is approximately 36km from the Victor  Attah International Airport designed with a runway to carry 747 and 380 series of international airbus cargoes.

The seaport as part of an integrated industrial city will help foster economic development of the country, the state, as well as drive economic empowerment of the citizens. This will be achieved by developing industries adjacent to the deep seaport and within the Ibom industrial city. The implication is that the development of the deep sea port will be carried out in such a way that the synergies of having it within the Ibom industrial city can be fully optimised.

The deep sea port designed for post and new Panamax size vessels will have several specialized terminals. It will also serve as a trans-shipment port for the West and Central Africa region. The Ibom deep seaport is on a location that will strategically serve the West and Central African Region including JDZ Sao Tome, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun, Angola, Gabon, Congo, Congo DRC, Niger, and Chad. It is a Greenfield port project with deep water access of 18 to 20m in the channel, and over two miles of quay area and with proximity to major shipping routes.

The objectives of Ibom Industrial City include development of a smart, modern and attractive, safe and secure place to do business and live in. The urban design framework will comprise residential and commercial zones centrally located while heavy industries and logistics are adjacent to the port and segregation of freight and passenger traffic.

The objectives of the industrial city includes creating new and expanding markets and industries in Akwa Ibom State such as agriculture, petrochemicals, ship building and repair yards, auto assembly plants, fabrication/construction, maritime clusters, ICT and electronics, waterfront facilities for tourism and commerce, and power plants by providing an enabling environment, efficient infrastructure and access to market.

The site is located close to five natural gas wells which provide an opportunity to develop gas-based industries as part of the overall development. The area currently has a Free Trade Zone designation and will lead to economic diversification and transfer of required industrial/technology skills to the people of Akwa Ibom State. Soon after taking office in his first term in 2015, Governor Emmanuel had inaugurated a 10-man Technical Committee for the Realisation of Ibom Deep Seaport to oversee the development of both the deep seaport and industrial city as two separate projects.

The Technical Committee for Realisation of Ibom Deep Seaport engaged globally acclaimed Pricewaterhouse Coopers, PwC, as programme manager to assist with facilitating a transparent and credible closed tender procurement process for the selection of transaction advisor and master planner and subsequently provide  programme management services towards the development of Ibom Deep Seaport, IDSP, and Ibom Industrial City, IIC, projects respectively.

The governor consequently commenced the implementation of the Ibom Industrial City plan. To get this done, he has within the first tenure of his administration completed the master plan for the industrial city and all basic procedural actions taken. Currently, the planning, design and requisite approval for the Ibom deep seaport which he met at 0.01 per cent execution stage has been completed. With the effort of his technical committee on the deep seaport, the project has already recorded tremendous success starting from ‘issuance of approval of procurement process’ to ‘negotiation of terms and condition with the preferred bidder’ for the deep seaport (Bollore-Power China Consortium).

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The Tin Can Island and Apapa Ports are totally congested. It takes an average of 42 days for a trailer to go in and come out. Nowhere in the civilized world will this happen. It kills the  economy and fuels crime. The Ibom Deep Seaport is the most preferred at the moment because it doesn’t require much dredging. Realistically, there are 22 steps involved in getting the approval and the state government has gotten to 20 with only two steps left. It has the preferred investor and one of the biggest port managing companies in the world. The state government has created the Ministry of Economic Development and Ibom Deep Sea Port to ensure smooth operation of the port.

Ibom Deep Sea Port along the coast of West and Central Africa is going to be the only deep-sea port with dual channels which means that you can process two ships at the same time. Lagos has single channel. All other ports have single channels. Mindful of the peculiar problem of the Apapa port, the Ikot Abasi jetty was designed and integrated into the Ibom Deep port to take care of smaller ships. It is within the same axis.

Considering that Nigeria’s current ports system does not have the capacity to absorb all the cargo destined for the country, it has long been the desire of the maritime authorities to develop deep seaports to accommodate vessels larger than those which currently berth at Nigerian ports and catalyze an economic boom in the process.

Records have it that 62 years after Nigerian ports came into being, the largest ship ever to berth in the country arrived Tin Can Island Port with cargo capacity of 4,651 twenty feet equivalent units, TEU, containers. This modest feat pales in comparison to the achievements of serious minded littoral countries that have developed deep seaports which accommodate Super Max and new Panamax size vessels bearing over 13,000 TEUs. Through constant dredging and channel maintenance, Nigeria’s biggest and busiest seaports located in Lagos have, according to the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, attained a draft of approximately 14 meters.

However, this is still grossly insufficient to accommodate the large vessels which we hope to attract to our shores. This reality has informed the decision by the Akwa Ibom State Government to embark on the ambitious deep seaport infrastructure development and is hoping to emerge as West and Central Africa’s regional port hub with the proposed IDSP. The IDSP includes a 20 kilometre channel approach that will not be less than 15 meters deep and 450 meters wide to allow for two-way vessel traffic.

The second phase on the other hand, which is designed to accommodate Post Panamax vessels, will have a marine approach, channel and turning basin of 18 meters and berth depth of 14-16 meters. Leaving no details to chance, the design has also factored in security installations to ensure the port will be ISPS compliant as soon as it is ready for operations.

Mrs. Mfon Usoro, the Chairperson of the Technical Committee on the Realization of the IDSP, provided more clarity: “Our projections are supported by the fact that Akwa Ibom and other states in close proximity already maintain an existing trade route between our people and neigbouring countries like Equatorial Guinea, Cameroun and others. In our planning concept, we are targeting shipping companies and terminal operators as co-developers and investors who will guarantee vessels and cargo once the port becomes operational. We have a more convincing economic and commercial case because of our trade antecedents and geographical location of the IDSP.”

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Emmanuel gave the clincher in his second term inaugural speech: “We hope to make Akwa Ibom the industrial hub of Nigeria. Ibom Industrial City and Ibom Deep Seaport will be our signature projects this second term.” Politics aside, he needs be given all the support to succeed in these projects.


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