Despite the commissioning of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, there are indications that commercial operations at the port may not begin until the end of first quarter of this year.
Findings by Shipping Position Daily have revealed that a combination of factors connected to the lack of good roads leading to the port and the absence of rail connectivity are top reasons the much-expected commercial take-off has been postponed.
Recall that President Buhari had last week commissioned the deep seaport amidst pomp and pageantry, with high expectations from stakeholders that commercial operations will begin after the commissioning.
It was confirmed by our correspondent that the port will still remain redundant until the end of first quarter to allow for “some necessary things needed for its operation to be in place”.
Checks by our Shipping Position Daily revealed that even though the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had announced last week via its Twitter handle that the port successfully berthed the first container vessel, the vessel only came on a trial voyage with empty containers.
This is even as the Vice President, of Africa CMA-CGM, Ludovic Rozan also confirmed that the CMA CGM vessel that called at the port only came on a trial voyage.
Even though the situation on ground at the port indicates otherwise, he nevertheless said that more vessels would call at the port in the coming weeks.
Our correspondent who was at the commissioning confirmed that the road leading to the port is still under construction, and could take not less than five months to complete, this is even as stakeholders who spoke to our correspondent at the commissioning also confirmed that the greatest challenge that will confront the Lekki port is cargo evacuation.
Although, barge operations have been suggested as the major mode of cargo evacuation from the port, stakeholders still opine that without a good road network and rail connection leading to the port, the deep seaport may not fully maximize its potential.
In a chat with our correspondent, the new chairman Association of Maritime Truck Owners (AMATO), Riliwan Bello also affirmed that the Lekki deep seaport will be a game-changer because of its popularity and its size. He however said the port still comes with its challenges; particularly as regards cargo evacuation.
Bello decried the current state of the road and the lack of rail connection to the port. According to him, “the Lekki deep seaport is a game changer because of its popularity and its size as well, it comes with some challenges, especially from the truckers’ angle like the one we are facing in Apapa and Tin Can”.
“The access road to the port is still under construction and the last time the governor was here, he left a standing order that the road should be completed before full operations starts.
“We know that this first quarter is for trial operation and we also suggested to the truckers association that we would prefer it if the state government could make the access road six lanes and dedicate one to trucks for easy evacuation of cargoes from the port,” he said.
However in an exclusive chat with our correspondent, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ibeju Federal constituency, Rep Adebayo Balogun, while explaining how the port can surmount the challenges of logistics movement in and out of the port, confirmed to our correspondent that the Lagos state government has taken it upon itself to construct the rail line to avoid the mistake made at the Apapa and Tin Can Port.
According to him, “the rail is also a project that the state government has already planned along this route. The train will be going from Lagos to Port Harcourt, because this coastal road will continue down to Port Harcourt.
“So if we are able to have that, any cargo coming from this area will be able to go down to Port Harcourt by rail.
On the road, he explained that “the Lagos State government is already working on that and you know the Ondo state government has already done their own part of the coastal road up to the boundary of Lagos State.
“The project is almost completed now. By the time Lagos continues on its own and they meet at that end, which means people from this area now move to Port Harcourt. A lot of other opportunities will actually be coming up” he said.
Also, confirming this to our correspondent, a Director at Lekki port; Alhaji Bode Oyedele, affirmed that indeed the Lagos state government is planning to build a rail system for easy cargo evacuation from the port.
He also stated that the state government has started upgrading the existing road that leads to the port from two lanes to four lanes.
He said with the rate of work going on the road, the road should be completed within the next four months.
“Yes, the Lagos state government is planning the rail system and as a matter of fact they are bringing in the private investors also for it to be quickly done. I think they are working well on it.
“The Lagos state government has envisaged this and has started upgrading the existing road from two lanes to four lanes with concrete, with the rate of work going on now, I think in the next three to four months, appreciable progress would have been made, if not completed and that will ease the movement of containers in the port” he assured.
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