Nigerian politicians are in a celebratory mood. So are their Chinese counterparts. Reason for their jubilation was the official inauguration of the Lekki Deep Sea Port in the Apapa Sea Corridor west of the Nigerian capital, Lagos, last week. It is the country's first deep-water port ever built. According to official figures, it has cost $1.5 billion, largely financed by Chinese state banks, including technical equipment and machinery made in China. With the commissioning of Lekki, the offshoots of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative have moved further into Africa.
Everyone with a big name was there to attend the opening of the port: Nigeria's President, Muhammadu Buhari, the Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo Olu, high-ranking business representatives from the West African country, and leading representatives of Chinese companies and financial institutions. And of course, as is customary on similar occasions in China, a dancing dragon entertained the many attendees, as a symbol of good luck and business success.
Port blockage ends
However, the completion of only the first construction stage was celebrated, work on the following sections continues. Even though the port is still unfinished, the project is already a game changer because it ends the notorious blockage, caused by heavy maritime traffic, of the existing port of Lagos located further east.
The quay wall spans over 600 meters, large enough to moor a container vessel carrying up to 16,000 standard containers (TEU). All operations are digitalized, making it easy to maneuver steel boxes and identify them for clearing purposes. Also, the electronic system reduces physical interaction between humans, ground vehicles and containers during unloading or loading processes. The large cranes operating at the quay wall can either offload or load the rearmost row of containers stacked atop a vessel even if the ship is wider than the Panama Canal (49m or 160ft max). Because they are maneuvering on a fixed rail at the quayside, they are very mobile and therefore ensure flexible use. The Chinese-built giants can hoist up to 65 tons in twin-lift mode or 50 tons in single-lift mode.
New railroad built by China
The sea port project complements other infrastructural schemes agreed between the Beijing and Lagos governments. This applies in particular to the Lagos-Calabar coastal railway line mandated to the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC). The contracts are signed, totaling 11,117 billion dollars, and mainly financed through loans granted by the China-Exim Bank.
The railway tracks will cover 1,400 kilometers and run through 10 states of the southeast and the southernmost part of the Niger Delta, connecting all major coastal cities. The trains, produced in China, are supposed to travel at 120km/h and stop at 22 stations. The Buhari administration expects construction work to last no more than two years.
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