The Acting Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, has said the authority would provide the enabling environment for the speedy actualisation of the multi-billion-naira Bonny Deep Seaport project.
Bello-Koko, who spoke while on an assessment tour of the Onne Port Complex and the Rivers Port Complex in Port Harcourt after the visit to Bonny Island, described the Bonny Deep Seaport project as a “game-changer” that would significantly transform the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria.
He said the operation of a deep seaport in Bonny would enhance the nation’s maritime hub status in Africa, adding that Nigeria would be able to attract transit cargo meant for landlocked neighbours and retain its captive cargo.
Bello-Koko said there would also be a reduction concerning ship-to-ship transfer activities taking place at Lome and Cotonou for cargoes destined for the Nigerian market.
The Bonny Deep Seaport project, covering a land area of 275.22 hectares is to be developed through direct investment by Messrs China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Limited on a design, build, finance, operate and transfer (DBFOT) basis.
The project scope of the Bonny Deep Seaport includes the construction of a breakwater, revetment, container berth, general goods berth, dredging of the access channel and turning basin, construction of office buildings and warehouses.
According to the NPA boss, the new port, with a draught of 17 metres, will have a terminal capacity of 500,000 TEUs per annum and 100,000 DWT general cargo berth.
Bello-Koko said the deep seaport project would be boosted by the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt, Maiduguri rail-line, with a branch at Elelenwo in Port Harcourt, heading to Dere, Bodo and terminating in Bonny.
He said the Bonny deep seaport, the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri rail line and a new Railway Industrial Park in Port Harcourt, which are valued at about $3.2billion, were flagged-off in March this year by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The NPA helmsman disclosed that with the identification of the best site for the Bonny deep seaport project, the construction process will now take off in earnest.
“Having resolved the location with the highest economic value for Bonny deep seaport, we are very hopeful construction would start this year. On the western flank is the Lekki Deep Seaport, which will come on stream next year. These port projects will usher in a new era of tremendous economic prosperity for our dear nation and further consolidate our position as the regional trade hub in West and Central Africa,” he said.
Speaking further on the uniqueness of the Bonny deep seaport, Bello-Koko said the new seaport that will be serviced by rail from the beginning, will facilitate the quick evacuation of cargo among other benefits, unlike in the older ports that depend solely on road.
Bello-Koko noted that in line with global trends, the railway link will fast-track the export of raw materials with value addition, as well as locally made finished goods.
He reiterated that the NPA management would remain steadfast to the full revitalisation of all the ports within the Eastern corridor of the country, adding that a lot is being done to boost shipping and cargo traffic to seaports outside the Lagos area.
The NPA boss said after the downward review of some of the authority’s charges to encourage shipping companies to utilise the ports in the East, there has been a slight increase in cargo volumes and activities from that axis.
He added that investments in deep seaports would drive economic diversification, facilitate cross-border trade, local content development and wealth creation for the public good.
Bello-Koko further appealed to the people of the Niger Delta to support and own the Bonny deep seaport, noting that the Federal Government and its partner would be deploying huge financial resources towards the construction of the new port, in appreciation that seaports drive economic development and create massive employment opportunities.
“I wish to call on our people, particularly the youths, to understand that they need to support the project. When the government facilitates a major foreign direct investment such as this, the citizens or locals should welcome it rather than go blocking roads or causing problems that discourage investors. Most of the jobs will be sourced from the local communities and the multiplier effect will be felt across the host communities, Rivers State and the entire country,” he noted.