NPA clears air over $27.29bn Escravos Deep Seaport project 

By Seun Ibiyemi

The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has shed more light on why the $27.29billion Escravos Deep seaport project, which is being promoted by a Nigerian firm, Mercury Maritime Concession Company in collaboration with EDIB International of Hong Kong, has stalled.

Responding to enquiries on the delay of the project via his X (formerly Twitter) handle, the Managing Director, NPA, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko revealed that the proposal submitted by the promoters of the Escravos Deep Seaport project has not provided the Authority with the necessary information to advise further.

According to Bello-Koko, “First, Mercury Maritime Concession Company Ltd (MMCC) submitted a proposal and wants the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to approve its request as the ONLY deep seaport-free zone in the eastern zone of the country for decades to come.

”Meanwhile, the Authority has received many proposals for developing deep seaports, including Ibom, Burutu, Bakassi, Bonny, and Port of Benin, which are currently at different stages of review. Nonetheless, we carefully outlined the requirements for this project.

“The initial phase involves acquiring land. The availability and suitability of the site are essential for the successful development of the port. This process is yet to be accomplished. Although the classic position is for the Authority to acquire the land and grant a concession on it to the private party, recent concessions granted by the government allowed private parties to acquire the land, hold it for an agreed term, and, after recovering the cost, transfer it to the Authority. Examples are the Lekki & Badagry deep seaports.

“To undertake this project, the site for the port must be identified, and environmental impact assessments and scientific studies must be conducted to confirm suitability.

“Additionally, we must adhere to the PPP process as per the applicable law, which entails submitting the OBC and FBC, obtaining a Certificate of Compliance from the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), and seeking final approval from the FEC.

“Therefore, we highlighted the need to submit a business and investment proposal with a financial model that demonstrates the project’s recovery period and forms the basis for adopting the PPP framework.

“Again, it is crucial to emphasize that the port is just one aspect of the overall development of the Industrial Park. This development encompasses petrochemicals and various manufacturing facilities.

“The required approvals for these aspects are not within NPA’s jurisdiction. They would follow the process under the ICRC Act

“In a nutshell, the proposal hasn’t provided the Authority with the necessary information to advise further.

“The Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy has expressed significant interest in this project and has equally requested additional details. The Minister, Gboyega Oyetola and the Authority are especially keen on working with proponents to develop one deep seaport in the eastern region, at the barest minimum.”

Recall that an approval was granted for a deep sea port in Escravos (Gbaramatu Island/Omadino) Warri South via a Joint venture partnership/PPP in 2019. The project which is expected to be located on a 31,000hectares of land in Delta state, will encompass a Deep sea port, Crude oil refinery, Gas Complex, Independent Power Plant, Airport and a Nature Park.

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