In a few weeks to come, Lekki Deepsea Port will commence full operations in Lagos State, thus making it the third seaport in operation in the state.
While Apapa and Tin Can Island ports are in full operation and generating over N30 billion daily to the federation account, Badagry Deepsea Port is in the pipeline and will in the next couple of months resume operation.
Unlike the Apapa Port that has a rail transportation facility for easy evacuation of imported items, the same rail facility is missing in the Tin Can Port against which the Federal Government is now considering a redesign of the port to accommodate intermodal means of transportation.
Unfortunately, the structural error in Tin Can Island Port is about to play out again in Lekki Deepsea Port which will take off any time soon.
The layout of Lekki Port which is located in Lagos Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) in Ibeju-Lekki has all the trappings of a modern port except for the rail infrastructure.
The port, sited about 70 km east of Lagos, is a port development for chemical tankers (160,000 DWT) and container vessels of 8,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs). The layout of the new port, including the layout of approach channel, turning circle and harbour basins, has been derived from optimisations based on port operations, construction costs and possible future extensions.
Two different breakwater concepts were applied for the main breakwater: A rubble mound with geo-bag core for the near-shore sections and a composite breakwater for the more exposed sections. The secondary breakwater was replaced by a barrier. The barrier consists of a core from sand, internally fortified by a protective geo-bag layer, a revetment on the harbour side and an artificial beach on the seaward side.
The project area is estimated to be about 60,000 hectares excluding the areas allocated for the Lekki Free Trade Zone, and International airport.
The port which construction commenced in 2015, was expected to be completed this year but has been shifted to next year because, according to the Director General of Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Engineer Chidi Izuwah, the parties to the contract did not demonstrate utmost commitment to the project.
The parties include, Lagos State Government (which has 18.15 per cent equity), Nigerian Ports Authority (20 per cent) and Tolarams Group of Singapore, which has substantial shares in the project.
But Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise (LPLE) owned by Tolaram Group, is the Special Purpose Vehicle which was awarded the Concession Agreement for development and operations of the port by the Nigerian Ports Authority. LPLE is required to develop, build and operate the port and has the right to sub-concession terminal operations to other companies.
However, when fully operational, Lekki Port will be the largest seaport of Nigeria. It will be able to handle around 6 million TEUs of containers, together with a significant volume of liquid and dry bulk cargoes.
But the bane of this multi-billion naira project is the absence of a rail track which has marred most ports in the country.
Confirming this to Daily Sun, the General Manager, Projects, LPLE, Mr Steven Heukelom, said the current masterplan of the project does not include rail but if the Federal Government (represented by NPA) can contact them, they can include rail in the project.
“Currently the masterplan of this project doesn’t include rail. But we are aware that there is rail development going on in Nigeria. There is a very high ambition. So, we keep track of them. And if NPA gets in touch with us we will adjust and incorporate it in the work,” he assured.
But ICRC chief noted that the rail work is being done, adding that the coastal rail is already in the works.
“The coastal rail will come in the neighborhood. What you need is the siding to connect because that is the way it works before it goes into the national rail.
“That is why it is very important that you must recognise the aggressive, progressive attitude of Rotimi Amaechi” he noted.
Stakeholders who spoke to Daily Sun on the issue carpeted the planners in the project, saying that the country is bound to lose over N1billion daily from the absence of a rail in the port.
Dr Patrick Chukwu, who is the co-ordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders, said: “Rail will save Nigeria a lot of problems because while rail will move 100 containers at once, it will require 100 trucks to move the same number of containers at different times.
“Also, it costs less to move cargoes by rail. Any country that has no rail loses a lot. So, anybody that is not considering rail in that project is an enemy to the country” he said.
The same way, an importer, Mr Eddy Akwaeze, opined that the absence of rail in the port will put unnecessary pressure on the road network unless the government provides a lighter ship that will take heavy load to Apapa for evacuation.
If that is not done, the roads around the port will not last up to 15 years before they will dilapidate.
He said that if they will consider rail now it will cost the government so much. The only remedy now is to take the rail on top of the flyover down to Iddo train terminal.