By Sola Adesanwo
The race is indeed heating up by the day, the stakes are growing higher especially with more cargoes and bigger vessels such as the WAFMAX series destined for the sub-region from different parts of the world.
To become the hub, the lucky port would naturally be the first port of call, from where smaller ships from all part of the sub-region will transship their cargoes for their final destinations, thereby giving the first port of call the automatic status of shipping hub, with multiplier economic benefits to the port and country respectively.
Among the ports on this routes are Lagos, PH, Onne, Warri, Calabar, Cotonou, Tema, , Accra, Abidjan, Lome, Monrovia, Banjul, Dakar, Luanda, Point Noire, Douala et al.
However, the frontline ports of all the above are Lagos, Onne, Abidjan, Dakar, Accra and Luanda.
The need to have a hub port is in pursuance of the development of world economy, globalization resulting in demand for new standards of efficiency for maritime transport and creating new challenges for world ports.
Foreign trade has gained extra ordinary strength and importance in the development strategies of different countries. It’s expansion and growth is the engine of their economic development.
The number of mega container vessels will continue to rise, this will increase the transport of containers reduce stops along the routes and therefore increase the services of feeder ships. Ship capacity will grow and ports along the sub-region will have to adjust to their sizes and reduce the number of port movements but will only be possible for ports with enormous capacity.
With the obvious expansion of the container industry the structure and organization of terminal operators have changed, some of the strategic reasons for this included the fact that these global transporters are already involved in hub and transshipment around the globe and seek to control their operations including guaranteed availability of equipment for use lure to seek for opportunity in Africa. These shipping companies also make effort to reduce cost based on economics of scale and better control of terminal expenses while providing clients’ needs through port to port supply chain and all necessary logistical service solutions.
Today’s terminal operators have stepped up container consolidation, documentation and storage which all have great impact on reducing cost and enhancing efficiency.
The efforts of these global operators to expand to new geographic areas will maximizing the use of technology to create worldwide port networks that can offer consistent level services and mode of operations.
As the race get hotter in the sub-region, the NIgerian Ports Authority, especially through the Lagos Port Complex, the Onne Port and a new generation of Deep Sea Ports whose foundation are gradually being laid across Nigeria seems to be at a great Advantage .
There is a massive and continuous development of infrastructural facilities in all the Ports in Nigeria especially in Onne and Lagos
With the latter experiencing rehabilitation of capital intensive projects such as the extension of the Quay walls at the Eko support services, the upgrading of the common assess 1.6km road within the Apapa Port.
The overhauling and rehabilitation of the East and West moles on the Lagos channel were recently completed. There has been consistent maintenance dredging of the Lagos channels while critical wrecks along the same channels have all been removed, this has made it more navigable for bigger vessels. To give credence to this, Mearsk Sealand has already deployed their WAFMAX series like Calabar and Conakry to Lagos with a promise to even send much bigger ship in the future to Lagos, while their ultimate dream is to transship to other parts of the region from Lagos.
Though most of the countries in the sub-region are known to be working on developing deep Sea Ports but Nigeria’s massive effort to set up deep sea Ports simultaneously at Ibaka about to take off, Lekki already started, Olokola and badagary on the tables are bound to dwarf these other countries.
Nigeria’s strategic location, with a large market of about 170 million people, a population that is about half of the entire sub-region. It is also the destination to 75% of all import bound for the sub-region and is therefore the natural and preferred hub for the sub-region spanning across West and Central Africa.
Sola Adesanwo is a seasoned maritime industry analyst