The Maritime Practice Group of Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL), a leading maritime law firm in Nigeria with over 45 years of existence and the brain behind the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 organized a Webinar on the “Lekki Deep Sea Port: The Issues and Prospects for the Nigerian Economy” on the 14 June, 2023. The webinar was designed to promote dialogue, knowledge-sharing and collaboration towards leveraging the potential of the Lekki Deep Seaport for economic growth and development in Nigeria.
The event provided an opportunity for participants to analyse critical issues relating to the theme of the event, as well as possible challenges and measures to curb them.
The event brought together key players from various sectors of the Nigerian Maritime industry and the general public, to brainstorm on the webinar topic. Speakers at the event were drawn from the Federal Ministry of Transport, Lagos State Water-Ways Authority (LASWA), Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Ltd (LPLEL), Nigerian Chamber of Shipping the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).
Participants had a robust discussion and made the following observations, resolutions and recommendations:
- The two ports built by the colonial government (the Apapa Quays Port established in 1913 and its counterpart, the Tin Can Island Port built-in 1976) were not intended for the heavy operational activities it is being put to today. Hence, they has become obsolete and inadequate for the era of globalized trade driven by sophisticated technological facilities required to facilitate the high volume of import and export involved.
- Nigeria has joined the league of advanced nations that have embarked on a massive infrastructural transformation of their seaports. Today, Nigeria boasts of an ultra-modern, multi-purpose, smart state-of-the-art deep-sea port with capabilities to handle the volume and complexities of modern cross-border trade. And there is a need for sustenance.
- The Lekki deep seaport is a significant step and a response to the much-talked-about change in the maritime sector over the past 40 years. This initiative is a step in the right direction that will make Nigeria the maritime destination and transhipment hub of West Africa and other landlocked countries.
- The Private-Federal-State model of partnership employed for the realization of this project is novel and praiseworthy towards the elimination of conflicts arising from differences in regulatory and operational environments which is a major obstacle to ease of doing business in Nigeria.
- To maximize the benefits of this facility and sustain the advantages that it has heralded, there is a need to learn from the experiences of countries like China which have successfully built, ran, and effectively managed pre-emptively, prospective challenges associated with smart deep seaports.
- There is an urgent need to focus on the development of key infrastructures, such as electricity and rail systems, to support the operations of the port.
- The current use of flatbed sea barges can only serve temporal purposes; therefore there is a need for a permanent measure.
- There is a need for negotiations to be initiated with the Dangote refinery for the supply of power to the port as power may be a setback.
- There is also the need to provide a fully functional harbour master office, security and safety measures. There is also a need for more bollard pull tug boats with higher capabilities for towing, salvage and rescue services.
- There is a need to take measures to prevent encroachment into lands required for future expansion and development of the port.
- A community platform should be created to unify the operations of various operational and regulatory agencies to prevent the issue of duplicate regimes.
- The Ports and Harbour Bill should be passed into law to provide a strong and robust legal framework after the model of the US Deep Water Act 1974 which has evolved over the years to provide for the regulation of all aspects of the port and its operations including environmental, security, local content, amongst other issues.
- Unwholesome needless practices such as harassment by customs officers and logistical bottlenecks which sabotage the gains of automation should be highly curtailed to encourage patronage and attract trans-shipment cargoes for the Nigerian port.
- Though there is a need to build more ports, Nigeria must first attract transhipment cargo and put in place whatever it takes to become the West African hub.
- It is pertinent that all (that is government and private entities) collaborate with the management of the Lekki FTZ Deep Sea Port to realize the purpose of the project.