How infrastructure upgrade is driving efficiency at Nigeria’s ports

June 22, 2020

Despite the 2006 port reform that ushered in massive port infrastructure, ports users, like the proverbial Oliver Twist, have over the years lamented of inadequate infrastructure at the nation’s port. TOLA ADENUBI examines the recent infrastructure upgrade that is currently changing the narrative at Nigeria’s seaports. Excerpts

Port operations world over is premised on efficiency that is driven by adequate port infrastructure and equipment. Despite the concession of the ports in 2006 to private operators, the Federal Government still held on to some statutory roles which included the administration of land and water within the port limits; planning and development of port operational infrastructure; easing and concession of port infrastructure and setting benchmark for tariff structure and maintaining nautical/harbour operations and hydrographic survey amongst others.

Since the Hadiza Bala Usman led-management took over port administration, much of the dilapidating infrastructure has witnessed an upgrade at different times leading to reduction in vessel turn-around time at the nation’s ports.

Tugboat upgrade

With bigger vessels calling at Nigerian ports, the onus became imperative for the Nigerian port administration to provide conducive environment for these mega ships. A major need at the ports ahead of the visit of the mega ships is the availability of tugboats.

A tug is a special class of boat without which mega ships cannot get into a port. Along with the primary purpose of towing the vessel towards the harbour, tugboats can be engaged in the purpose of providing essentials such as water, air, etc to the vessel. A tugboat eases the manoeuvring operation of vessels by forcing or tugging them towards the port. Mega vessels can never be manoeuvred on their own. Also with the increased size of the boat, they need tugboats to carry some of their domains and tow them through narrow water channels. Aside the towing of large vessels, tugboats are also essential elements for non-self-propelled barges, oil platforms, log rafts etc.

Thus in 2017, the Hadiza Bala Usman-led NPA management took delivery of four tugboats namely MT Daura, MT Ubima, MT Uromi and MT Majiya. Not resting on its oars, again in June 2020, the NPA took delivery of additional two tugboats, MT Musawa and MT Ikoro-Ekiti, thereby bringing the total number of procured tugboats to six.

Explaining the rationale behind the recent infrastructure upgrade, the NPA Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman, said that MT Musawa and MT Ikoro-Ekiti, which are Damen’s 2810 Model tugboats, will enhance the maneuvering of large capacity vessels calling at Nigeria’s ports. This would ultimately affect the turnaround time of these vessels positively.

“These tugboats are with Length Over All (LOA) of 28.67m, Breath Over All (BOA) of 10.43m and 4. 90m draft. They are built under Lloyds Classification Society standards and powered by twin MTU engines to attain a speed of 13.5knots.   The power delivered by the twin MTU engines enable the tugboats to produce 60 ton bollard pull ahead and 58,7ton astern, for towing operations. They are also equipped to serve as fire-fighting machines.

“The assurance is that vessel owners and concessionaires and other stakeholders will experience even better service delivery from the NPA,” the NPA MD stated.

Jetties/quay wall/quay aprons

The Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, which has been left unattended to for over 30 years, was identified by the current NPA management as a major outlet for expanding the operational capacity of the ports and consequently, initiated the rehabilitation of the dilapidated quay wall/quay apron by re-plating the entire sheet pile wall to a depth of 2.4m below the capping beam and reconstruction of the collapsed quay apron with other ancillary restoration works on the failed slabs. Upon completion, the terminal will boost intermodal transportation system and serve as a major logistics platform for the handling and exportation of agro-allied produce.

Rehabilitation of Apapa port berths

For years, berth 15 to 20 of the Apapa port had deteriorated and left unattended to. Its rehabilitation commenced under the current NPA management. To restore the deteriorated berths’ expected performance level for smooth cargo operations onshore as well as to optimize the vessel anchoring potential of the port for attainment of operational efficiency, NPA embarked on comprehensive rehabilitation of the facility to further attract the confidence of the shipping community to the patronage of the port.

Fender inventory/procurement

As part of efforts to respond to safety requirements of international shipping, particularly with regards to berthing of vessels, the NPA management embarked on an authority-wide inventory of fendering requirements for the nation’s ports and commenced immediate procurement of fenders to make the berths suitable for vessel operations and reduce the incidence of potential ignition of fire by direct vessel impact on the quay. In this regards, a total of 180 single and double cone fenders are under procurement to replace the missing, damaged or inadequate fenders authority-wide.

Jetty infrastructure renewal

In NPA’s efforts towards comprehensive infrastructure renewal and upgrade, consultancy services are being procured for study and engineering investigations in several port locations, including Tin Can Island Port Quay Wall/Quay Apron, Rivers Port Quay Wall/Quay Apron, Millero Jetty (Shoreline Logistics Jetty), Old Port, Calabar; McIver Jetty, Old Port, Calabar; and Warehouse converted to Boat Terminal Building, Calabar. This is with the aim to redesign, reconstruct and upgrade the jetties and terminal facilities to respond to the changing demands of port users and to respond to the demands of modern changes in the sizes and configuration of vessels for which the present structure of the berthing facilities have become obsolete, due to their inability to accommodate contemporary Length Overall (LOA) of Vessels.

Upon completion, the berths are to be redefined and re-delineated to accommodate modern LOA of vessels which are in some instances in excess of 300 meters.

Port access roads

Over the years, the nation’s port access roads had become dilapidated and characterized by gullies, frequently falling cargo trucks, heavy traffic congestion along port approaches. The hues and cries associated with the gruesome traffic situation resulted in the current NPA management taking a bold step to attract relevant stakeholders and government organizations to the need for urgent steps to ensure the rehabilitation of port roads. This manifested in the following:

– Joint funding of reconstruction of Apapa Wharf Road, Apapa, Lagos, with contributions from NPA, Dangote and Flourmills Nigeria Limited;

– Emergency repair works on failed sections of port access road Apapa, Lagos;

– Resurfacing of link roads by Overhead Bridge to Main Gate, Lagos Port Complex, Apapa;

– Rehabilitation of Dockyard access road, Apapa.

– Reconstruction of port access road between the Free Trade Zone Roundabout to Main Gate of Calabar Port (1.6km), Calabar;

– Rehabilitation of segment of Common User Road with Ports and Terminal Operations Limited (PTOL) premises, Rivers Port, Port Harcourt;

– Reconstruction of access/internal road at NPA Bonny Signal Station, Bonny Island, Rivers State; and

– Rehabilitation of Common User Road, Old Port, Delta Ports, Warri;

The NPA also spearheaded the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Apapa –Oshodi – Oworonsoki Expressway through consistent and persistent pressure on the Federal Government. The work is currently on-going.


The agency also carried out remedial dredging works and provision of aids to navigation for the Escravos Access Channel. This channel has not been dredged for over three decades, thereby reducing the optimization of operational potential. Since the dredging was effected, Warri Port has started receiving liner vessels.

The Escravos entrance, a part of the Delta navigation channel, is the entry point of the Warri and Escravos rivers into the sea. It is through this approach channel that ships, ocean-going vessels and trawlers enter the various sea ports in Delta State. This has brought a fresh lease of life to shipping in the Delta Ports and its operating environment.


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