Nigerian authorities have hailed the launch of a deep-water seaport in Lagos which they say will create 300,000 jobs and reduce shipping bottlenecks. While the new port is expected to cut losses due to congestion, shipping industry experts say Nigeria’s poor road and rail connections with the ports also need to improve.

President Mohammadu Buhari’s launch during his two-day visit to Lagos this week signaled his government’s effort to grow Nigeria’s economy through infrastructure development.

The $1.5 billion Chinese-built Lekki Deep Sea Port sits on 90 hectares of land in the Lagos Free Trade Zone, the largest port by size in West Africa.

Officials say the ships docking at the port could be up to four times larger than the ships at the state’s Tin Can and Apapa ports. They hope it will alleviate port delays and congestion and increase profits by up to $360 billion over the next few years.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, center, prepares to cut the ribbon to commission the deep-water port of Lekki in Lagos, on January 23, 2023.

Efioita Ephraim is a manager at Ports and Terminal Nigeria, Ltd.

“The current ports that we have in the country are located along rivers, tributaries and that is why there are limitations. It is a positive development to have an infrastructure like this in our country. With this, the largest vessels will be able to dock at our ports and we will be in competition with neighboring countries such as Cotonou [Benin]Ephraim said.

Most of Nigeria’s seaports were built many decades ago and are closed or operating below capacity.

Nigeria loses approximately $1 billion a year due to port delays and bottlenecks. To address the problem, the Nigerian Ports Authority launched an automated process for cargo clearance at ports.

Abiodun Gbadamosi is the former CEO of Nigeria’s Western Ports. He said the new deep-water port in Lagos will contribute to Nigeria’s economic progress and create jobs.

The country’s statistics office says Nigeria’s unemployment rate is 33 percent.

“What Nigeria needs now is jobs, jobs and more jobs and that will help a lot. It will improve trade in that area. It’s very commendable and it will really boost the state. So Nigeria can now push forward the idea of ​​being a hub for region,” he said.

Ephraim said authorities need to improve road and rail accessibility to the area.

“If the items are to be transported out of the port and into the port by road, then I hope that the multimodal mode of transport to and from the Lekki deep-water port, rail and road transport will be encouraged.”

China is one of Nigeria’s biggest lenders and has been financing railway, highway and energy projects.

The first commercial vessel is expected to arrive at the port this Sunday.