File photo shows the Lekki Seaport project in Lagos, Nigeria. (CHEC photo/Xinhua)
BEIJING, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Nigeria's first deep seaport Lekki port, which is being constructed by China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd. (CHEC), has seen 54.71 percent of construction completed by the start of July amid the impact of the COVID-19.
Situated in Lekki free trade zone in Lagos state, Nigeria, the deepwater port project, as the largest one funded by a Chinese enterprise in West Africa and one of the flagship cooperation projects under the Belt and Road Initiative, is expected to be put into operation in the first quarter of 2023.
-- Construction of Lekki port in full progress
With the tides outside the breakwater churning and raging, the calm and tranquil sea surface inside the breakwater of the Lekki port witnessed smooth progress of construction.
On May 18, construction of all piles of its No. 1 berth were completed. On May 24, hydraulic reclamation began on the cutter suction dredger named "New Dolphin Wheel 2".
Babajide Sanwo-Olu, governor of Lagos state, said that he was excited about the construction speed of Lekki port and the deep sea port is expected to be put into operation in January 2023.
The governor also said that the port will completely change the business mode in Nigeria. It will also accelerate freight turnover, lower logistics costs, and improve business convenience, which will further contribute to driving Nigeria's rapid economic growth.
Du Ruogang, managing director of Lekki Port LFTZ Enterprise Ltd. (LPLEL), a special purpose vehicle which undertakes construction and development of the Lekki port, said that CHEC adopts the mode of integrated investment, construction and operation in developing the Lekki port. Through franchise operation, the company has been deeply involved in Nigeria's social and economic development.
In the past months of 2021, the COVID-19 epidemic in Nigeria remained severe. In spite of these, CHEC has resumed full work and production while actively maintaining regular anti-pandemic efforts. On basis of guaranteeing resource inputs and constantly optimized construction procedures, CHEC vowed to complete on time the construction of the deep sea port.
-- A win-win cooperation model
For a long time, Lagos, the largest city in Africa and the economic hub of Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, has insufficient and underdeveloped facilities at all of its ports and wharfs, which, together with the limited transportation capacity surrounding the ports and wharfs, resulted in stubbornly high logistics costs and seriously constrained the foreign trade and economic growth of Nigeria.
Under such circumstances, multiple rounds of negotiations over development of the Lekki port were carried out between the federal government of Nigeria, the Lagos state government and numerous large international enterprises.
In March 2020, CHEC completed equity delivery for the Lekki port project and became the controlling shareholder of Lekki port. A Singaporean private company Tolaram Group also holds equities in the port, which involved a total investment of around 1.04 billion U.S. dollars.
On April 29, with the concerted efforts of more than 1,500 workers from China and Nigeria, construction on the core park of the main breakwater was completed, 20 days ahead of schedule. On the same day, LPLEL received from China Development Bank the first installment of the commercial loan, which is the largest one that China has ever given to Nigeria and plays a vital role in the development of Lekki port.
-- Lekki port project to reform the economic landscape of Nigeria
"We feel excited at and proud for neighboring Lekki Port. I will lead the villagers in praying for the smooth development of the port," reported People's Daily citing the chief of a neighboring village of the port.
As the village chief noted, the village has scored unprecedented development since the construction of the Lekki port began. With the growing number of tourists, most of the previously vacant houses are now occupied, and the surrounding roads have been vastly improved. In particular, many young people can find promising jobs at the port.
As of mid-June, the port had created more than 1,200 jobs, among which 80 percent of technology and management posts have been undertaken by locals, said Steven Heukelom, chief technical officer of LPLEL, adding that most of these local workers have mastered more professional and modern skills after systematic training and instruction.
Hassan Bello, CEO of the Nigerian Shippers' Council, reaffirmed the significance of Lekki port to the economic prosperity of Nigeria. When it is completed, the port will directly and indirectly create over 170,000 jobs. As the largest modern deep sea port in West and Central Africa, it will bring major transformation for economic landscape of Nigeria and shipping business in West and Central Africa at large. (Edited by Duan Jing with Xinhua Silk Road, firstname.lastname@example.org)