IBOM DEEP SEAPORT: A Maritime Gateway to West and Central African Region

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The idea of Ibom Deep Seaport, IDSP, a major component of Ibom Industrial City, was conceived to be the country’s and state’s economic empowerment plan, designed to play a catalytic role in economic development as well as raise the business and revenue profile of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria.

The Deep Seaport is designed to occupy 2,565 hectares of land with additional 1.565 hectares for future expansion. IDSP, with the investment capacity of $4.2 billion, will on completion serve Sao Tome Joint Development, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Chad, making it to offer a multiple modal connectivity with unparalleled access to coastal railway lines, the Victor Attah International Airport and extensive national road network. As a trans-shipment port for the West and Central African region, the Seaport which is expected to handle container break-bulk, dry-bulk and liquid cargo will stimulate business activities and lead to a gargantuan leap in trans-national trade activities, as it would handle large vessels that can load over 13,000 containers in one voyage.

The project, which is to be owned by the Federal Government through Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, with Akwa Ibom State government and private investors through the PPP arrangement, has key features.

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The features include deep water access (18m in the channel) with the capacity to accommodate large vessels; 5,129 radars for port development; proximity to major shipping routes, as well as a combined deep seaport and free trade zone development in Akwa Ibom State.

Others are short distance to destination markets, to reduce cost and maximise benefits; as well as a large gateway market size to attract direct vessel service and sizeable trans-shipment cargo for feeder shipping network connection. These features make the IDSP unique and strategic to the maritime economy and international trade portfolio of the country. It has been a key project of Akwa Ibom State and indeed Nigeria given its critical role in launching the state and the country into a robust regime of international trade and other international business transactions.

The idea Although the idea of Ibom Deep Seaport project was mooted by the previous administrations in the state, the real commitment and political will to translate the dream into a realistic project commenced following the assumption of office of the present administration of Governor Udom Emmanuel, when he set up a technical committee on the implementation of the Ibom Deep Seaport project.

Although there were a number of political, administrative and technical issues to be addressed in the course of the project actualisation, with the strong support of the governor, the committee continued in its commitment to deliver on its mandate. In May 2015, IDSP received Federal Government approval under the Public-Private Partnership, PPP, model. In further demonstration of its commitment, the state government contracted the Global Maritime and Ports Services, GMAPS, to provide transaction advising services in December 2015, and the responsibility of completing the master-plan producing a full business case for the project. With all the administrative, policy and technical issues addressed, work on the first phase of the IDSP is about to commence.

Giving a lowdown of the progress made to actualised the project, the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, represented by Secretary to the State Government during a meeting of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, ICRC, NPA and the Federal Ministry of Transport, said the Ibom Deep Seaport is poised to bring a smart world port landing capacity to the doorsteps of Akwa Ibom State and serve the cargo handling of the West and Central African countries as well as states of the South-East region of Nigeria. Already, two world-renowned companies with outstanding pedigree in the maritime industry have successfully bidded to handle the two major components of the Ibom Deep Seaport projects. While the consortium of Bollore’ Ports of China is to handle the operation of all container activities, Power China is expected to carry out necessary works for developing the port infrastructure.

According to Mrs. Mfon Usoro, Chairperson of the Technical Committee on the Actualisation of Ibom Seaport, the government is targeting shipping companies and terminal operators as co-developers and investors, who will guarantee vessels and cargo when the port becomes operational. It is expected that given its locational advantage, and its technical contents, the Ibom Deep Seaport will serve a better purpose in terms of promoting maritime business, international trade and interconnectivity.

With specialised terminals to handle ports and big-sized vessels, in addition to other ancillary activities, the Deep Seaport will generate multiplier effects, new business frontiers, create the necessary middle class and create more than 10,000 job opportunities for the people of Akwa Ibom at the construction stage.

This number will increase when the port is in operation considering that there will be direct and indirect jobs created. Moreover, it will certainly help in solving the perennial problem of port congestion in Nigeria.

As the host state of this gargantuan economic enabler, Akwa Ibom will step up in its revenue profile, business opportunities, and become a major player in the competitive national and global economy. Governor Udom Emmanuel’s administration has taken the bull by the horn in demonstrating rare commitment and tenancy in ensuring that the dream project comes to reality.

It is, therefore, expedient that Akwa Ibom people and Nigerians rise to the challenge of ensuring the actualisation of a project that will launch the country into a world of robust maritime business.

Mike Etuk, a public affairs analyst, wrote from Uyo.

Vanguard

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