The Director-General, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has announced that the sum of $2.6billion have been put in place for the development of Badagry Deep Seaport aimed at boosting international trade. After several delays, the foundation-laying ceremony has been billed for this month.

Meanwhile, stakeholders, who spoke with newsmen, advised the Federal Government to set up a Maritime Infrastructure Commission (MIC) to make the proposed port, which had been in the pipeline, a reality.

According to news report, the global maritime trend is fast moving in the direction of deep seaports. Deep seaports are also referred to as “deep water ports”. In the global maritime industry, out of about 100 seaport developments being executed, 60 to 75 per cent are deep seaports or terminals. The balance is believed to be mostly inland waterway ports and jetties. The statistics alone readily makes deep seaport development the issue in the maritime infrastructure sector. The global scramble for deep seaports is linked to the increasing embrace maritime architects and engineers of very large carriers, which are considered “economical vessels”.

With its huge maritime potential, stakeholders said the country could not take the back seat in the scramble for deep seaports in the global maritime industry.

“Even with poor indigenous vessel’s involvement, Nigerian huge container, dry and wet bulk cargo traffic is a regional force, well-known to even regional competitors. With the intense competition on the regional maritime space, the imperative to maintain the lead and attain an undisputed hub status in the region as a transshipment centre, is more compelling, hence the justification for the call made by Jamoh on the development of Badagry Deep Seaport.

In a courtesy visit to the paramount ruler of Badagry Kingdom, De-Wheno Aholu Menu Toyi 1, the Akran of Badagry, Jamoh said the Badagry Deep Seaport project in Lagos State is a strategic step to the development of the country as a global maritime hub.

Ever since the Federal Government announced plans for development of some deep seaports in Nigeria, several names have since cropped up. They include the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos State, Ibaka Deep Seaport in Akwa Ibom State, Badagry Deep Seaport in Lagos State, Olokola Deep Seaport in Ondo State, Ogidigben Deep Seaport near Escravos in Delta State, and Agge Deep Seaport in Bayelsa State, as well as Bonny and Calabar seaports in Rivers and Cross River states. It is not clear which ones are Federal Government’s and which are under state government and private sector driven.

Although the stakeholders agreed with Jamoh that the country could not obtain the hub status without the completion of some of the deep seaports projects across the country, they, however, want the Federal Government to review its policy to accommodate the peculiarities of maritime infrastructure.

“The best way to go is to set up a Maritime Infrastructure Commission that will take care of maritime infrastructure issues,” said a former General Manager, Public Affairs, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Chief Michael Kayode Ajayi.

“Can Nigeria, therefore, be left behind in the jostle for efficient deep seaports? Deep seaport activities will impact positively on our economy, but to reap the benefits, what are the parameters that must be set right? Great opportunities for such huge benefits can be missed if mismanaged. So, where should the lines be drawn between white elephant ‘political seaports’ and the capital-intensive commercial undertaking which deep seaports projects in Lagos represent? Ajayi asked.

He said Nigeria’s quest to become the hub of maritime activities in the West and Central African sub-region would remain elusive without a serious commitment by the government and promoters of deep seaports projects.

For instance, Ajayi said the port must have rail connection and have port facilities that can accommodate large vessels with draught of at least 15metres and that can carry up to 10,000 TEUs.

“Without deep seaports, our hope of being a hub will not materialise. It is a common knowledge that the ports, especially Apapa and Tin Can ports in the Lagos axis, are overstretched with the attendant inordinate delays in cargo handling and processing. With capacity for 60 million metric tonnes of cargo handling, the ports run at 100 million metric tonnes. This is expected to increase,” Ajayi said.

A maritime lawyer Dr Dipo Alaka identified the inability of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to provide the scanners and a transhipment tariff as major factors hampering the use of the seaports for transhipment of cargoes to landlocked countries across the region.

Describing the investment ratio of 60:20:20 among the private sector, Federal and state governments in the development of some deep seaports as inadequate, he said:“About 50 per cent of the port cost is taken by the breakwater.

“The government and investors must not be reluctant to pay for breakwater. For instance, the Federal Government, through the NPA, should provide breakwater and channel. These constitute the infrastructure for safe navigation on which compulsory pilotage is being charged. The 40 per cent of government exposure is not enough to build the infrastructure. This is one of the main problems of deep seaports development.

“The government should review this policy to accommodate the peculiarities of maritime infrastructure. The best way to go is to set up a Maritime Infrastructure Commission to take care of all maritime infrastructure issues.”

‘Nigerian Ports are below world standard’
According to Alaka,  the ports are below the global average on three key productivity measures and called for a quick investment in world class infrastructure, strengthen Regulatory Frameworks, enhance institutional cooperation, implementation of one-stop portals like the national single window and adequate Investment in human capital.

In his words, “Our ports have fallen far behind our global peers on key performance indicators. Cargo spends several weeks in ports, compared to less than a week in large ports in Europe, Latin America and Asia. We are below the global average on three key productivity measures of ports: gross moves per hour, berth moves per hour and man-hours per move.”

The don urged government agencies to implement integrated and sustainable solutions to the identified challenges.

“There must be effective implementation of the Merchant Shipping Act, NIMASA and the Cabotage Act by ensuring that regulating the maritime sector with the use of these instruments does not hinder efficiency and negatively affect business operations in the Ports,” he said.

The maritime lawyer also supports the establishment of a Maritime Infrastructure Commission.

The Badagry Deep Sea Port project is being executed through a public-private partnership supervised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, and Lagos State Government, as well as a private consortium of APM Terminals, Orlean Invest, Oando, Terminal Investment Limited (TIL), and Macquarie.

The deep seaport is located in the Gberefun area of Badagry, along the Lagos-Badagry Expressway, about 55 kilometres (34 miles) west of the Apapa and Tin Can Island Port complexes.

The port is proposed to be about four kilometres of quay and 620 hectares of dedicated port facilities. It will also include facilities for handling containers, dry bulk, liquid bulk, roll-on-roll-off, and general cargo, as well as oil and gas operations support.

The port will have about 480 hectares of Industrial and Logistic Park Zone.

According to Jamoh, “Nigeria is strategically located at a significant point in the Atlantic Ocean, with about 853 kilometres coastline, which gives us a geographic advantage to become a maritime hub for not only the West and Central African region, but also the entire maritime trading world. And with over 70 per cent of cargo bound for West and Central Africa destined for Nigeria, we also have a huge commercial advantage.

“The Badagry Deep Seaport, planned to be Africa’s biggest and most advanced seaport when it becomes operational, would help to maximise this extraordinary maritime potential. This is more so given the strategic place of Badagry in the region.”