Monday, 10 February 2020

INCORPORATE A RAIL SYSTEM INTO THE LEKKI DEEP SEA PORT, MARITIME STAKEHOLDERS ADVISE PROMOTERS

Stakeholders in the maritime industry have called on the promoters of the Lekki Deep Seaport in Lagos to address the absence of rail link in the project.

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Going by the gigantic nature of the project, experts are worried that upon completion, the location of the port could become another nightmare in the mold of the Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports in Lagos, which have become a hydra-headed problem defying all solutions.

A maritime lawyer and lecturer at the Lagos State University, Dr. Dipo Alaka, bemoaned the absence of plans for rail connectivity and uses of barges on inland water access to the port are some of the challenges facing the multibillion dollars project.

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In Dr. Alaka’s own words, “Go to Apapa and see the huge but avoidable national embarrassment that is going on there. There is congestion in Apapa because those who handed over the ports to the terminal operators failed to plan for the future. There is congestion within and around the Lagos ports because over 95 per cent of our cargo goes on the road. Therefore, both the Lagos State government and the promoters of the Lekki port  must ensure that we have a seamless cargo  evacuation from the port, if not, it’s laughable to think that we will not have congestion by the time the port becomes operational.”

These fears are not unfounded considering that upon completion, the Ibeju- Lekki-Epe axis will be home to huge traffic arising from the operational activities in the deep seaport and the Dangote Refinery among the other major projects cited in the Lekki Free Trade Zone.

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The Technical Director, Lekki Deep Sea Port, Mr. Steven Heukelom, agreed that the current masterplan of the project does not include rail. He however said that it is not too late to include same in the project because adjustments are possible in any ongoing project. However, for this to be done Heuklom said there is the need for the Federal Government, as represented by Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to contact them and the rail would be factored into the project. “Currently, the masterplan of this project doesn’t include rail. But we are aware that there is massive rail development going on in Nigeria and if NPA gets in touch with us, we will adjust and incorporate it in the work,” he assured.

Similarly, the Relationship Director, Lekki Deep Sea Port, Adesuwa Ladoja, disclosed that a national rail project discussion was ongoing with the Federal Ministry of Transportation to avoid the Apapa situation. “These issues will be solved in an optimal manner. Proper plans have been put in place to ensure everything comes out fine. Already, we have seen big multinationals investing in the zone,” she said.

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Experts in port construction said since the coastal rail will come through the neighbourhood of the Lagos Free Zone, incorporating a rail system into the deep sea port will not be an issue.

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