With the commencement of the expansion projects in Apapa Quay, backed by the injection of huge funds, the modernisation of Nigeria’s premier port is blossoming, writes John Iwori
There are many ports in Nigeria. These ports are situated in Calabar, Warri, Lagos, Sapele, Onne, and Port Harcourt. Nevertheless, the ones situated in Lagos stand out like sore thumbs. In fact, Nigeria’s premier port, Apapa is significant. It is the doyen of all the terminals in Lagos Ports Complex (LPC), Apapa.
Boosting Investors Confidence
With the concession of the nation’s seaports in 2006, more and more investors are making forays into the maritime sector of the economy. The high interest of more private investors was not unconnected with the involvement of concessionaires in the day-to-day running of the port.
This was unlike in the pre-concession era when the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was in charge of cargo handling. Though the authority remains the landlord, managing common user services, the port has witnessed a tremendous improvement since then.
The exercise, which was supervised by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) during the economic reforms programme of the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo administration, has succeeded in boosting investors’ confidence in the Nigerian economy.
Stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy were unanimous in their verdict that the concession of the port has recorded tangible and intangible benefits to Nigeria, nay Nigerians. According to those who spoke to THISDAY, although the nation is yet to reach the Promised Land, she has certainly left Egypt as far as port operations is concerned.
The stakeholders need no further evidence of investors’ confidence in the maritime sector of the economy than the recent visit of the Group Chief Executive Officer of the AP Moller-Maersk Group, Mr. Nils Andersen to Nigeria.
He did not only visit President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja as well as the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Idris Umar, but also Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre, Lagos. Andersen used the occasion of his visit to perform the ground breaking ceremony of for terminal yard redevelopment and expansion of Africa’s largest container terminal, Apapa Quay.
He announced that a whopping $330 million has so far been sunk into the rehabilitation of Nigeria’s premier seaport, Apapa Container Terminal (ACT) since the concession programme initiated by the Federal Government in 2006.
AP Moller-Maersk Group had, through its Nigerian subsidiary, APM Terminals Apapa Limited, won the concession for ACT, Africa’s largest container terminal in the wake of the concession exercise supervised by the Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE).
He said the project will entail $135 million of investment, bringing the total capital investment since the start of the concession in 2006 to a total of $330 million.
He stated that the fresh investment will “make the Apapa Terminal the largest and most modern terminal in West Africa with a capacity of 1.2 million TEU per year”.
His words: “It will benefit the people working in the terminal, who will have better, safer conditions, it will be good for the environment, because pollution will be reduced, and it will further enable Nigerian business to import and export goods and products. Apapa has already for years promoted trade and development and attracted customers, making it the busiest terminal in West Africa.
“This is another important step in this exciting journey. Many efficiency measures and modernisation processes have been carried through in recent years, lifting the productivity and developing safety and transparency, so much so that we use it as a best-practice example for terminals in other growth markets. We hope and believe that Apapa will continue to be a terminal we can all be proud of”.
The AP Moller-Maersk boss said the expansion shows that the Nigerian economy is still growing and has potential for more growth. “We will work hard to contribute to this positive development in the coming years”, he said.
Andersen, who had since returned home, assured Jonathan of AP Moller-Maersk Group’s commitment to the economic development of Nigeria.
While fielding questions from journalists in Lagos, Andersen also spoke on the Badagry mega-port project, which APM Terminals is undertaking with its consortium partners. He described the Badagry port project as an important project aimed at adding new capacity to cope with increase in volume.
“The growth in volume is solid and new capacity will be needed in the medium term. Badagry is important because the ports in Lagos will be out of capacity by 2016”, he said.
He said the group’s investments in both the Apapa container terminal and Badagry port project indicate “a vote of confidence in Nigeria’s economy”.
It must be noted that the groundbreaking ceremony was witnessed by several stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy. These include the Executive Director Marine and Operations) of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mr. David Omonibeke, who represented the Managing Director, Alhaji Habib Abdullahi.
The expansion in Nigeria’s premier is not an isolated case. It is in line with the AP Moller-Maersk Group investment plan for the future. THISDAY checks revealed that it was meant to consolidate on the group foray into the Nigerian economy. The Danish port operator logistic giant is group is presently in 130 countries across the world. More than 10,000 of its 117,000 employees work in Africa.
Not a few port users have opined that the face of Nigeria’s premier port will not remain the same if the AP Moller-Maersk Group continues to execute consistently its investment plan for Nigeria in the years, even as they enjoined others to emulate the firm by setting aside a percentage of their profits to invest in the country.
They also urged the federal government to encourage the company to do more by providing incentives and a conducive environment to operate. They opined that this was the best way to attract more genuine investors to invest in Nigeria and provide job opportunities for the youths.