The commissioning of the $1.5 billion Lekki Deep Seaport by President Mohammadu Buhari in the twilight of his administration escaped the attention of many Nigerians. This was, perhaps, because it was buried in the din of political activities in the country at the time; perhaps because it was an exclusive affair of the maritime and international trade business community; and also, perhaps, because it was lost in the midst of many projects commissioned by the outgoing President.

Yet the event heralded one of the biggest projects commenced, executed, completed and commissioned by President Buhari.The Lekki Deep Sea Port is the single largest private investment in infrastructure in Nigeria being developed on non-recourse project finance basis with majority of financing being raised internationally.

The project which encompasses an investment in excess of $1.5 billion is a joint venture between the Federal Government through the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Lagos State Government, the Tolarams Group (the owner of the Lagos Free Zone), and China Harbour Engineering Company.

The development of the Port was conceptualized to meet significant gap in projected demand and capacity for port services. Market studies indicate that the demand for containers is expected to grow at a rate of 12.9 per cent up to 2025. However, given the expansion constraints on the existing infrastructure, the capacity in Lagos is incapable of meeting the growing demand. The capacity shortfall for container terminal facilities in Lagos is projected to be 0.8 million TEUs in 2016 going up to 5.5 million TEUs in 2025. The strategic location, flexible and optimized layout and modern facilities provide Lekki Port a distinct competitive edge over any other port facility in the West African region.

According to the owners of the port, Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprose Ltd, in addition to bridging the capacity deficit, Lekki Deep Sea Port will have significant positive impact estimated at USD 361 billion over the term of concession. It is expected to contribute more than USD 200 billion to the government purse and create close to 170,000 new jobs. Furthermore, Lekki Port will spur the ecomic development around the Lekki sub-region and the wider Lagos State through rapid industrialization.

Other economic impact expected from the port include Direct and induced business revenue impact of US$ 158 billion, qualitative impact on manufacturing, trade and commercial Services Sector .

The port has three terminals, which are the container terminal, the liquid terminal and the dry bulk terminal. The container terminal has an initial draft of 14 metres, with the potential for further dredging to 16.5 metres. The terminal is able to handle 2.5 million twenty-foot standard containers per year.

The deep-sea port of Lekki is the first port in Nigeria with ship-to-shore cranes. It has three of these container gantry cranes; they belong to the “Super-post-Panamax” group – this means that they can reach and unload the rearmost row of containers even if the container ship is wider than the Panama Canal (49 m or 160 ft maximum boat beam).

The STS cranes have a fixed rail at the quayside that can lift 65 tons in twin-lift mode, 50 tons in single-lift mode or 85 tons under a hook.

The port’s computerised system will allow container identification and clearance from the office, and human interaction will be minimal in the physical operations

When the phase 2 is completed, the deep sea port will have three liquid berths. The liquid cargo terminal will handle vessels up to 45,000 DWT (dead weight tonnage) and can expand to reach a capacity of 160,000 DWT. 

Liquids (like petrol or diesel) will be handled at a tank farm near the port. The docking area is equipped with loading arms. It is also connected by pipelines along the breakwater.

The bulk terminal with available quay length of 300m can accommodate a Panamax class vessel (75,000 DWT).

The Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, was joined by Governors Biodun Oyebanji (Ekiti) and Dapo Abiodun (Ogun) and former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Service chiefs, All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftains, among others, to receive the President.

 Sanwo-Olu described the project as the biggest infrastructure in the whole of West Africa with potential to generate thousands of jobs.