Strong indications emerged that the Lekki Deep Seaport project when fully operational may spell doom for the massive investments made by existing port concessionaires, especially those of Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Ports Complex both in Apapa, Lagos.

The new port complex is also believed to have violated some sections of the Port Act 1999, in terms of the distance between it and other existing ports in the country, especially those in Lagos

Recall that the Federal Government had carried out a port reform programme, which was concluded in 2006 under which Nigerian Ports Authority was stripped of its cargo handling functions and handed to private terminal operators, who have invested massively to develop their various terminals as well as acquiring modern cargo handling equipment that have enhanced efficient port operations.

A port management expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, observed that both Apapa and Tin Island Ports are basically channel ports, with a maximum of 13 metres of draft while the Lekki Deep Seaport has over 16.5 metres of natural draft and would definitely accommodate larger vessels.

According to him, the new deep seaport would have a lot of economy of large scale over and above other seaports in Lagos, since it would handle lager vessels, which would mean that importers and other port users may switch over to the port with economy of large scale with the attendant low cost of operation.

The source noted that this might spell doom on the huge investments made by port concessionaires in developing the various ports as well as acquiring modern and state of the art port equipment that have helped to enhance port efficiency by drastically reducing turnaround time of vessels and cargo dwell time.

He noted that this might be unfair to the investors who took over the nation’s dilapidated port infrastructure and upgraded and modernised them less than 12 years ago and so may not have recouped their massive investments in hard currency.

“The port concessionaires would definitely lose volumes to the Lekki Deep Seaport when it comes on stream because of its ability to handle larger vessels, which comes with lower cost, which would make port users switch over”, he said.

Apart from portending doom for the existing port investors, the expert also observed that the deep seaport violates some sections of the 1999 Nigerian Ports Authority Act, which provides that seaports must not be established less than 200 miles apart.

He noted that the Lekki Port is less than 15 miles from the Apapa and Tin Can Ports and less than 50 miles from the Badagry Deep Seaport, all in Lagos, which he insists is in breach of the extant laws of the land.

The Lekki Deep Seaport, which is expected to commence operations in 2018, in which the Lagos State Government has an 18.5 per cent shareholding, 20 per cent to the NPA representing the Federal Government,   while the private consortium of investors led by the Tolaram Group holds the remaining 61.8 per cent.

Originally slated for completion in 2012, the Lekki Port, which is located within the privately owned Lagos Free Trade Zone located in Lekki, approximately covers 60 kilometres east of the city of Lagos even as the first phase of the development of the site covers 218 hectares while the second phase is proposed to cover 1,275 hectares.The new port is designed to have a final draft of 16.5m and accordingly will be able to accommodate large container vessels with a capacity of about 8,500 Twenty Equivalent Units TEUs.

Similarly, the port is expected to handle bulk and liquid commodities and tankers up to 160,000 DWT, as it is designed to be a deep water port so that larger vessels can berth safely and when fully operational, it will handle containers, general and bulk cargoes, and is therefore expected to will relieve congestion at the other ports in Lagos and enhance business opportunities for importers and exporters.