Nigeria’s quest to become the preferred transhipment hub for the West and Central Africa subregion has received a massive boost as the procurement process for the Ibom Deep Seaport (IDSP) Project is scheduled to commence in January 2018 with the advertisement of the Request for Qualification (RFQ) from reputable private sector port operators in partnership with the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The RFQ is a critical milestone in the implementation of the IDSP project which is arguably one of the most promising Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure initiatives in Africa because of the unique investment opportunities it offers international seaport developers as well as its potential for driving inclusive economic growth in Nigeria and the West and Central African sub-region.
Over the years, most of West Africa’s seaports have come under the strain of infrastructure deficit, inadequate space for expansion leading to congestion and shallow drafts, which has constrained the size of vessels that can berth at the ports. These challenges bestow on some of the ports in the region, the unfortunate sobriquet of being the most expensive ports to do business in the world.
This economic drawback and the need for Nigeria to optimize her immense maritime potential compelled both the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State Government to kindle and nurture the vision of a future gateway into the West and Central Africa subregion. By so doing, the government hopes to create an enabling environment for private sector investors to exploit the opportunities in the industry, as the IDSP presents a compelling investment case that cannot be ignored.
Strategically located in the South East of Akwa Ibom State which incidentally sits along West and Central Africa’s major shipping routes, the greenfield port area spans 2,565 hectares and is designed for New Panamax Class vessels with channel draft of a 18.24m; turning basin and berth depth and quay length of about 7.5km. When fully developed, the container terminals will be able to accommodate up to 13 New Panamax Class container vessels and two very large feeder vessels.
According to Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro, Chairperson, IDSP Technical Committee, the IDSP is positioned to offer a value proposition superior to other seaports in the region. As earlier noted, the various seaports currently serving the West and Central African sub-region are reaching saturation and the need for viable alternatives has become imperative for major shipping lines sailing these routes.
With limited land to expand the existing seaports in Lagos and the inhibiting conditions against the development or expansion of other ports in neighbouring countries, the IDSP offers an ultra-modern deep seaport with modern cargo handling equipment, facilities and systems that can address the capacity challenges constraining other seaports across the region.
Largely regarded as an emerging gateway in to West and Central Africa due to its proximity to target markets in the region, the IDSP constitutes a highly attractive prospect to hinterland countries and major shipping lines calling this axis of the continent.
Usoro informed M&P that “The IDSP has the potential to effortlessly attract direct vessel services and sizeable transhipment cargo hinterland for feeder shipping network connection, while with its capacity to handle post and New Panamax vessels at its specialized terminals, the transhipment container market for the IDSP is estimated to grow from about 1.2 million TEUs in 2021 to about four million TEUs in 2040.
She further stated that with the location of the IDSP within the Ibom Industrial City (IIC), a designated Free Trade Zone (FTZ), replete with fiscal incentives, investors in the Deep Seaport would enjoy special regulatory and fiscal incentive regimes including tax waivers and ease of repatriation of capital and investment proceeds. This she said, would enhance competitiveness and allow for cost saving with corresponding opportunities for investors to maximize returns on their investments.
With the development of allied businesses such as agriculture, oil and gas, petrochemicals, marine-related industries, auto assembly plants, power plants, as well as real estate within the IIC, the strategic nature of the IDSP as a pivot to optimize productivity and efficiency when completed is a compelling selling proposition for all stakeholders.
It is expected that the IDSP will leverage on and benefit from the various integrated infrastructure projects being developed in the state such as airport, railway lines and road networks, all aimed at making the project site easily accessible and enhance access to market, while existing naval facilities in the area addresses security concerns.