· Shippers Council to demarket Lekki deep seaport without rail
By Kenneth Jukpor
A logistics tragedy looms at Lekki following the construction of the Lekki deep seaport without railway connection as the sponsors of the deep seaport shy away from the responsibility as a result of the cost of the rail construction.
The Technical Director, Lekki Port Enterprises Limited, Steven Heukelom confirmed that the company had no plans to finance the rail project last week, even as he stated that the Lekki Deep seaport will commence operations in 2022 when its first commercial vessel is expected to berth in the first half of that year.
The is coming fast on the heels of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) threats to de-market the Lekki seaport if the sponsors do not provide the rail connection before take-off.
Speaking with MMS Plus recently on the possibility Lekki deep seaport taking off without rail, the Chief Executive Officer, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello said, “What is the value of a port when you can’t evacuate the cargoes? The Lekki port has to be a modern port where the rail and access roads will be effective. It also has to be a port with effective and efficient procedures and processes”
Although the Shippers’ Council boss told our correspondent that the rail connection will be provided, it appears the rail project is in a race against time even as the sponsorship of the project remains ambiguous.
Recall that the Managing Director of NRC, Engr. Fidet Okhiria told MMS Plus in Abuja recently that the financial provision for the Lekki rail connection had become a challenge as neither the federal government nor sponsors of the seaport have agreed to finance the rail project to Lekki deep seaport.
Meanwhile, Dangote refinery may begin operations in December 2020 also without provision of access roads, railway or pipeline to evacuate products, increasing fears of a possible traffic chaos which has characterized the Apapa and Tin Can port access roads.
In her presentation, the Lekki deep seaport Media Counsel/Relationship Group Director, Adesuwa Ladoja noted that efforts are ongoing between the project promoters and the Federal Government to connect the port by rail.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation has written to us concerning linking the port to the national rail system, and efforts are being put in that direction to ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of Apapa port,” Adesuwa stated.
However, industry observers have expressed shock at the position of the project sponsors that the rail project should be borne by the federal government.
It should be noted that the facilitators of the dry port in Isiala-Ngwa, Abia State, Eastgate Inland Container Terminal Limited were responsible for the rail connection to the port facility.
Steven Heukelom while taking newsmen on a tour of the Lekki port last week said; “Only the private sector cannot address this challenge. We are challenging the government to line up infrastructure and organize the traffic in this axis”
According to him, 50% of the breakwaters has reached an advanced stage of construction with about one-kilometre work done out of the full length of 1.9 metres projected.
Heukelom disclosed that after completion, the deep seaport would have three container berth of 680 -metre long and 16.5metre water depth, one liquid and one dry bulk terminals. He added that it will also have the capacity to berth large containerships of 18, 000 TEUs.
The Lekki Port is being built on 90 hectares of land at the centre of the Lagos Free Trade Zone, approximately 60 km east of Lagos and will be the first deep water port in the West African country.