Hub status beckons for Ibom deep seaport

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Encouraged by flourishing maritime trade and oil production ventures along West Africa’s coast, Akwa Ibom State and indeed Nigeria, is primed for rapid transition to become West and Central Africa’s transshipment hub when operations commence at the Ibom deep seaport (IDSP).

The IDSP is part of a game-changing Ibom Industrial City (IIC) project, that will become the cargo gateway for the vast south-south, south-east, north-central and north-eastern Nigerian markets. The mega-port will accommodate Panama plus class vessels and provide strategic services to markets in West and Central Africa, in a bid to reduce the pressure associated with transshipment cargo at Lagos ports.

The unique location of the ICC gives the Ibom deep seaport advantage over other similar projects springing up along the coast of West Africa, in what can be described as a deliberate attempt to scuttle Nigeria’s prospects of emerging as the region’s preferred maritime and transshipment destination.

Regardless of competition from the likes of Republic of Benin, Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire, who are all in the process of building deep seaports hoping to draw off Nigeria-bound cargoes, the country still possesses one of the most important attributes carriers look for. This is a strategic location of the hub/transshipment center relative to primary origins of the cargo and its final destination.

Over the years, Nigeria has played transshipment host to cargoes bound for land-locked countries like Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Cameroon and will expand the range of countries with the emerging master stroke the Ibom deep seaport promises to deliver in the region.

Experts have advised that the establishment of a major transshipment center in any region along West Africa’s coast will eventually change the distribution pattern of cargoes within the sub-region. Given its proximity to industrial and commercial centers in the south of Nigeria, the IDSP is not short of potential to make it the region’s dominant hub.

The strong support from all levels of the Nigerian government, coupled with the committee’s endorsement of Pricewaterhousecoopers and Global Maritime and Port Services (GMAPS) as world class Programme Managers, and Transaction Advisors respectively, is an affirmation of the project’s aptitude to perform beyond expectations.

Equally commendable, is the Akwa Ibom State Government’s commitment to develop its economy through Public Private Partnership (PPP) initiatives. The IIC, which is designated a licensed Export Processing/Free Trade Zone, will take advantage of its location, existing oil and gas facilities and allied industries to become a major logistics hub.

The ICC will comprise of agriculture, petrochemicals, ship building and repair yards, auto assembly plants, fabrication, construction and commercial clusters. It will develop its waterfront assets for maritime, tourism and hospitality dividends.

As a sign of good things to come, Umana Okon Umama, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Oil and Gas Free Zones Authority in Nigeria as quoted in the Financial Times of London said, “OGFZs established strategically across Nigeria have performed exceptionally and account for no less than N14.8 trillion worth of foreign investments into the country.”

Thus, the most recently approved Ibom Industrial City, hopes to join the list of successful Free Trade Zones in the country to attract the much needed FDIs in to the economy.

Stakeholders are confident that the speedy completion of the IIC and IDSP will turnaround the fortunes of the Nigerian economy and call for an accelerated, albeit transparent bidding and developer evaluation process. They say this will ward off the challenge from our rampaging neighbours and guarantee that Nigeria will begin to reap the benefits of maritime acuity.

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