February 7, 2023

Lekki Deep Sea Port and a governor’s date with history


DURING his historic two-day working visit to Lagos, the $1.5bn Lekki Deep Seaport was one of the several iconic projects inaugurated by President Muhammad Buhari. Located approximately 65km in the eastern part of Lagos, the Lekki Deep Sea Port spreads over 90 hectares of land bordered on the South by the Atlantic Ocean. It is the biggest port in Nigeria, and one of the biggest in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a joint venture enterprise owned by a group of investors led by the Lekki Port Investment Holdings Inc., the Lagos State Government and the Federal Government.

It is a resounding testimony to the power of Public-Private-Partnership, PPP, which the Lagos State government has been championing for long.    

Few hours to the official inauguration of the Deep Seaport, the port received the first commercial container vessel. Announcing the development through its Twitter account, the Nigerian Ports Authority said the vessel was owned and operated by French shipping firm, CMA/CGM. The Lekki Deep Sea Port is Nigeria’s first deep-sea-port, and first fully automated port in the country. It is one of the largest in West Africa and it is poised to revolutionise the way goods are transported and traded in our nation. Expectedly, the Lekki Port would not only improve efficiency and connectivity, but would also serve as a major driver for economic growth in the region.  

The port is equipped with tank farm storage, loading arms, and connected by pipelines running along the breakwater to carry finished products cargo like petrol and diesel between the tank farm and the vessels. It is designed to provide 24/7 operations throughout the year, using latest technology to facilitate smooth and efficient import and export of goods, ensuring smooth flow of cargo, and enabling opportunities to new businesses. It is projected to generate about $20bn in employee salaries, an estimated $201bn revenue for state and federal agencies from taxes, royalties, and duties and estimated business revenue impact of US$ 158 billion across the value chain. In terms of employment generation, over 300,000 jobs are to be created from port operations alone, while more indirect jobs are feasible across the value chain. 

The port’s main breakwater is 1.5km long with a turning circle of 600 meters, enough for a vessel up to 16,000 standard containers (teu) and an approach channel of 11km long. It has three terminals: the container terminal, the liquid terminal and the dry bulk terminal. The container terminal has an initial draft of 14 meters, with the potential for further dredging to 16.5 meters. The terminal is able to handle 2.5 million 20-foot standard containers per year. It is the first port in Nigeria with ship-to-shore cranes. It has three of these container gantry cranes; they belong to the “Super-post-Panamax” group – this means that they can reach and unload the rear most row of containers even if the container ship is wider than the Panama Canal (49 m or 160 ft maximum boat beam).

The STS cranes have a fixed rail at the quayside. They can lift 65 tons in twin-lift mode, 50 tons in single-lift mode or 85 tons under a hook. The port’s computerised system will allow container identification and clearance from the office, and human interaction will be minimal in the physical operations. There are three liquid berths at the port. The liquid cargo terminal will handle vessels up to 45,000 DWT (dead weight tonnage) and can expand to reach a capacity of 160,000 DWT.  Liquids (like petrol or diesel) will be handled at a tank farm near the port. The docking area is equipped with loading arms. It is also connected by pipelines along the breakwater. The bulk terminal with available quay length of 300m can accommodate a Panamax class vessel (75,000 DWT).

The coming on board of the port would go a long way in helping the nation to bridge the gap in the Nigeria’s maritime infrastructure in the shortest time possible.  Deepening of infrastructure footprints by the Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration, both within the environment where the project is located and other axis of the state, is a strong pointer that the government is committed to the development of the port and its underlying socio-economic potentials. One thing that clearly comes to fore in the whole project is the willingness of the Sanwo-Olu administration to go the extra mile to live up to the expectation of Lagos as an investor-friendly state.

Lagos makes a significant contribution to the Nigerian economy. It contributes 30 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP. This is remarkable considering that Lagos is home to only 10 per cent of the population of Nigeria. The majority of Nigeria’s manufacturing is based in Lagos as well as many service industries such as finance. All of these factors combine to encourage industry to locate in Lagos. The efforts of the Lagos State government in birthing the new port will better be appreciated when it is realised that only one new sea port was developed in Nigeria within the last forty years.

It must be stressed that the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea Port began in July 2020 during the pandemic, and was completed in October 2022.

The new port, therefore, represents another milestone in the nation’s quest for economic development. It is a reflection of the unlimited possibilities that abound when relevant tiers of government work together in harmony. Interestingly, Sanwo-Olu goes into the history books as the first governor under whom both a light rail line and a deep-sea port were completed and commissioned. From the outset, Sanwo-Olu demonstrated unalloyed commitment to the project’s speedy accomplishment.

This is based on his understanding of its socio-economic potentials. In October 2019, Sanwo-Olu signed a $629 million financing facility with the China Development Bank, CDB. The first tranche of this loan was disbursed by the Bank in April 2021. This paved the way for the official award of the Concession in December 2019, with a delivery period of 30 months.

Construction went on through the pandemic, and was completed in October 2022. The completion and commissioning of the all-important port bears clear authentication to three things. First is the Nigerian ‘can do spirit’. Second is the power of visionary leadership, while the third is the positive impact of effective collaboration between the federal and state governments. Hopefully, with proper management, the new port will usher in the anticipated economic dividends to all its promoters. With the port and other concrete developmental projects going on around the Lekki corridor, certainly, ‘a Greater Lagos is Rising’. 

Ogunbiyi is Deputy Director, Public Affairs, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja