DEEP SEAPORTS DEVELOPMENT AND THE NIGERIAN ECONOMY: PROSPECTS AND CHALLENGES
The global maritime trend is fast moving in the direction of deep seaports. Deep seaports are also called “deepwater ports”. In the global maritime industry, out of about 100 seaport developments being executed, approximately 60 to 75 per cent are deep seaports or terminals. The balance is believed to be mostly inland waterway ports and jetties.
The statistics alone readily makes deep seaport development the current issue in the maritime infrastructure sector. The global scramble for deep seaports is linked to the increasing embrace by maritime architects and engineers of very large carriers, which are considered “economical vessels”. This preference for mega ships which can only berth in deep drafts, is expected to continue and increase. It is like the evolution of cars from small and slow to big and fast.
Expectedly, with her large maritime space, huge maritime potentials and undisputed leadership position in cargo traffic on the West and Central African region, Nigeria’s maritime sector is central to her economic development as a transport, commerce, resource and recreational factor. With such massive maritime capacities and potentials, Nigeria cannot be expected at the rear lines in the scramble for deep seaports in the global maritime industry. Even with poor indigenous vessel operational involvement, Nigerian huge container, dry and wet bulk cargo traffic is a regional force, a fact well-known to even regional competitors.
With the intense competition on the regional maritime space, the imperative to maintain the lead and attain an undisputed hub status in the region as a transshipment centre, is more compelling. It is also common knowledge that the existing ports, especially Apapa and Tin Can Ports in the Lagos axis, are overstretched with the attendant inordinate delays in cargo handling and processing. With capacity for 60 million metric tonnes of cargo handling, the ports run at 100 million metric tonnes. This is expected to increase.
The maritime industry, effectively harnessed, has the capacity to be a big factor in the national economy; with revenue, at maximum potentials, capable of competing with oil and gas revenue. Maritime revenue can be a major contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a nation. Nigeria has huge maritime potentials begging to be tapped. These and more issues would seem to define the economic imperatives for deep seaports development in Nigeria.
The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine the mechanics of deep seaports; evaluate, albeit within a limited space, the potential impact of a deep seaport on the Nigerian economy; critically examine the prospects for development of deep seaports in Nigeria and the possible challenges before that project. It will then conclude with recommendations.