Maritime Report

April 5, 2024

Large ships: 4 Nigerian ports in rivalry over patronage



·    Expert cautions over disorderliness, wrong priority

By Godfrey Bivbere

In a bid to attract patronage to their facilities four major Nigerian ports have been enmeshed in a stiff contest over handling of ‘Very Large Ships, VLS’.

The four ports are the newly commissioned Lekki port, Apapa port, Tin-can Island port, all in Lagos and Onne port in Port Harcourt. The bigger the size of vessel that calls at a port, the more international shipping lines are attracted to them.

The competition was kicked off by West Africa Container Terminal Nigeria, WACT, located at Onne port, in 2020 when it announced the berthing of the then largest container-ship to Nigeria, ‘Maersk Stadelhorn’, which has overall length of 300 meters and had capacity to carry about 10,000 Twenty Equivalent Units, TEUs.

The terminal, again in 2022 announced the berthing of a 5,042 TEUs containership named ‘Lady Jane’ operated by OOCL shipping line having a length overall of 294.5 meters.

Managing Director of WACT, Naved  Zafar, said that effective coordination by Nigeria Port Authority, NPA and the USD112 million (about N47 billion back then) investment in the terminal by APM Terminals, made it possible to handle very large container vessels.

Responding to these groundbreaking event, Lekki port announced the berthing of a 300-meter Length Overall, LOA vessel, ‘CMA CGM Rabelais’, with the capacity to carry 6,570 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units, TEUs, that discharged and load an exchange of 200 TEUs.

The ‘CMA CGM Rabelais’ set a new record for the port and in the Lagos Pilotage District, as being the largest vessel in ship dimensions to berth in the district, second only to the largest FPSO in the world, Total’s Egina FPSO.

Shortly after the Lekki port announcement, the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, also announced the berthing of the largest-ever container vessel at the Tin-Can Island Port Complex.

The vessel named ‘MSC Maureen’ with a Length Overall, LOA, of 300 meters and a breadth of 40 meters, had a Gross Tonnage of 75,590 Dead weight of 85,810 tons. It also has the capacity to carry a total of 15,000 TEUs.

Then Port Manager of the Tin-Can Island Port, Jibril Buba, said the development is a testament to the NPA’s readiness to receive vessels despite the pressing need to rehabilitate infrastructure at Tin-Can Port.

Lagos Port Complex, Apapa in June 2023 received the largest container carrier in its history with the berthing of a 300m length overall vessel, named, ‘Kota Cantik’ at the port.

In a statement the Port said that the unprecedented development is a testament to the commitment of NPA’s current leadership to sustain investment in port infrastructure and equipment that enable operational excellence.

The statement read in part, “The vessel christened Kota Cantik, which is translated to mean “beautiful point,” is designed to carry up to 6600 twenty-equivalent units at a time, signaling a turning point and signposting the possibilities that improved infrastructure and equipment upgrades can offer.”

Not to be seen to be left behind, Ports and Terminal Multiservice Limited PTML, a Roll-in, Roll-off, RoRo, terminal also located at Tin-can Island port, announced the Largest Container-RORO (CON-RORO) Vessel, in the world, ‘MV Great Lagos’.

The vessel is the largest in the world in the category of combining Containers and RORO, also known as vehicles.

The MV Lagos has a capacity of 2,500 vehicles and 2000 containers in a voyage.

At the recent commissioning of two ultra-modern control towers, Bello-Koko reiterated NPA’s resolve to equip the ports for performance that meets and indeed exceeds stakeholders’ expectations.

The Port Manager of Lagos Port Complex, Charles Okaga said that the exceptional delivery by Apapa Port, coming on the heels of the reception in the month of May of ‘MSC Maureen’, demonstrates the NPA’s readiness to create and sustain improved performance.”

The Managing Director of Lekki Port, Du Ruogang, said this milestone attests to the readiness of the port to become a major hub for global trade and logistics, which is evident in its capacity to receive larger vessels.

At the backdrop of this development a maritime expert, Charles Okoroefe, has called on the relevant government agencies to ensure that these vessels do not leave the nation’s ports empty after discharging their import consignments, in order to create additional value for the economy.

Okoroefe had blamed the NPA for paying too much attention as well as measuring the productivity and economic prospects of the ports based on size of the vessels that berth at the nation’s port.

He stressed that many cargo vessels come in empty without tangible items thereby reducing the economic prospects of such vessel. He advised that Nigerians should not measure the productivity rate of the ports based on the number of cargo ships that arrive at the seaports but should put should rather consider the quality of the content of such vessels that come in.

He also advised that the ports authority should put much energy in reviving the already disorganised port system starting from actively working on the various access routes to the ports, the chaotic traffic in Lagos area where all these vehicles ply before they reach the various ports should be made vehicle friendly.

Furthermore, he urged the ports authority to look closely into cargo evacuation and deployment rather than placing high value on vessel call that do not add economic value to the country.