Editor's note: Public affairs commentator, John Brown, writes about the Ibom Deep Sea Port and its economic benefits for Akwa Ibom state in particular and Nigeria in general, especially as internally generated revenue becomes sacrosanct for Nigerian states to meet up with their obligations.
The move to finally take Akwa Ibom state away from being a core civil service state to an industrial super hub within the Gulf of Guinea last week got the nod of the federal government with the approval for the take-off of the Ibom Deep Sea Port, a piece of news that threw residents of the state into an ecstasy of delight.
The Ibom Deep Sea Port, a Public-Private Partnership Initiative under a 60% private and 40% public sector arrangement will no doubt change not just the face of the state's industrialization philosophy but also has the possibility of having a multiplier effect whose impact will surely boomerang to almost all sectors of the state's economy.
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According to Mr. Akan Okon, commissioner for economic development and Ibom Deep Seaport, the total cost of construction of the Ibom Deep Seaport is $4.6 billion but the first phase of it is $2.016 billion which has been approved by the federal government.
Apart from the guaranteed employment generation, the Ibom Deep Sea Port is one project that will give the state's Internally Generated Revenue, IGR, a big boost. Apart from it's envisaged natural advantage of being the deepest seaport in the West African sub-region, the project will not only expand Nigeria's maritime business but will serve as a major investment hub with regards import and export, a reality that is already a big relief to Nigeria's international businessmen and their foreign partners.
The Ibom Deep Sea Port will no doubt ensure that both maritime professionals, as well as auxiliary artisans, benefit immensely. The project will no doubt open windows of opportunities to people such as terminal operators, longshoremen, freight forwarders, steamship agents, ship pilots, tug and towboat operators, chandlers, warehousemen, as well as jobs in the dredging, marine construction, ship repair, trucking, and railroad industries.
These direct port-sector jobs will also support thousands of induced jobs due to purchases of food, housing, transportation, apparel, medical and entertainment services.
Besides, numerous port-sector firms will provide direct services to the cargo and vessel activity to support their direct activity and supporting other indirect jobs such as suppliers of parts and equipment; firms providing maintenance and repair services to the businesses dependent on port operations; utilities providing services to marine terminals; and office supply firms.
One thing obvious with the project is that Ibom Deep Seaport will create jobs that tend to pay above-average wages, which is important to ensuring Akwa Ibom remains a strong economic force in a post-COVID-19 Nigerian economy which is aimed at being repositioned to be less dependent on oil revenue alone.
It could be recalled that in May 2015, the IDSP PPP procurement was approved by the Federal Executive Council. In January 2018, a request for quotation was issued, to which 8 applications were received. Three applicants were shortlisted as bidders to proceed to the Request for Proposal stage, which started in April and ended in September 2018 with the official opening of the competing bids. A rigorous evaluation of the bids, which was conducted in line with international best practices was what culminated in the selection of Bollore–PowerChina Consortium as the Preferred Bidder and China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. as the reserved bidder.
A consortium comprising Bollore Africa Logistics and PowerChina International Group has been chosen as the preferred bidder for the Ibom Deep Seaport Project (IDSP), with the franchise of operating the port for 50 years while China Harbour Engineering emerging as reserve bidder for the project.
Bollore Africa Logistics is the leading port operator in Africa and a part of French-based Bollore Transport and Logistics, which ranks among the world’s top-20 port operators. PowerChina International Group Ltd is the core business of Power Construction Corporation of China which is the world’s top hydropower, electric power, and infrastructure construction group. The port is designed to handle vessels up to neo-panamax size with 7.5 km of quay on completion.
IDSP is a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) port infrastructure project sponsored by the Nigeria federal ministry of transportation, Nigerian Port Authority, and the Akwa Ibom state government, with international advising from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Singapore-based port engineering consultancy company Global Maritime and Port Services Pte Ltd.
The project includes 2,565 hectares of greenfield port area, integrated within the Ibom Industrial City, a free trade zone with fiscal incentives. Ibom Deep Sea Port is designed to provide a channel depth of 18.24m, a turning basin and berth depth of 16.72m, and quay length of about 7.5 km upon completion. It will have a capacity of 9 mln TEU and will cater for large container vessels of 13,000 TEU.
The Ibom Deep Seaport, IDSP, which is a major component of the Ibom Industrial City, no doubt will not only transform the coastal cities that the project will cut across but will provide thousands of jobs in the catchment communities both during the execution of the project and at the commencement of operations.
Though the idea of the IDSP project was conceived by the Attah administration, the present administration has no doubt taken it up not just from the drawing board and pipeline it has been for years to its final implementation phase so as to translate this global maritime vision into job creation, wealth generation, and economic diversification endeavor.
Determined to ensure the project becomes a reality, the state government had earlier contracted the Global Maritime and Ports Services, GMAPS, to provide transaction advising services in December 2015. GMAPS also had the responsibility of completing the master-plan to produce a full business case for the IDSP project which saw the Ibom Deep Sea Port getting the federal government's approval under the Public-Private Partnership, PPP, model in May 2015.
The multi-billion-dollar project which will be constructed in phases will see the first phase witnessing the construction of two breakwaters 1,350m-long and 600m-long respectively while the second phase will witness the extension of IDSP with an additional 495ha of land to accommodate a channel of 18.24m, turning basin berth depth of 16.72m, and a quay length of 7.5km, to enable it harbour new panamax-class vessels.
The project which has the capacity to increase the revenue base of not just the state but the federal government too occupies about 2,565 hectares of land with an additional 1.565 hectares for future expansion. It's benefits, a projected investment capacity of $4.2 billion will on completion serve the Joint Development of Sao Tome, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, and Chad as the Ibom Deep Sea Port project offers a multiple model connectivity with unparalleled access to coastal railway lines, the Victor Attah International Airport, and extensive national road network.
With the vision to make it a trans-shipment port for the West and Central African region, expected to handle such business activities as container break-bulk, dry-bulk, and liquid cargo, the project is a gargantuan leap in trans-national trade activities that would handle large vessels capable of loading over 13,000 containers in one voyage. Indeed, with Ibom Deep Seaport, Akwa Ibom can never remain the same again economically and commercial point of view.
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