By Ubon Akpan
Procurement process for the Ibom Deep Sea Port (ISDP), a critical milestone, which commenced early last month, is up and running as investors, international and local, jostle to position themselves to take advantage of what is seen as Africa’s emerging maritime master stroke.
The procurement process kicked off in earnest on January 8, 2018 when the Deep Sea Port Implementation Committee working with reputable international consultants released advertisement of the Request For Qualification (RFQ) which requested capable private sector investors in port development and operation to indicate their interests by downloading and filling the requisite forms.
In the form, investors who are interested in partnering with the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State Government in developing the sea port as a Design, Build, Finance, Maintain, Operate and Transfer (DBFMOT) investment through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) are requested to provide their corporate profiles including ownership structure, business history, development/operational capabilities and evidence of financing strengths
They are also expected to provide evidence of experience of developing and operating similar projects including green field port terminal projects and free trade zones particularly in Africa, preferably in Nigeria.
In addition, such investors are also requested to provide evidence of partnerships or relationships with large shipping companies and port operators worldwide, showcase the experience and expertise of their key management and operations personnel on similar projects as well as experience and familiarity with local context, among others.
Interested investors are expected to submit their responses to the RFQ latest by March 16, 2018 and thereafter only qualified investors will be invited for further discussion preparatory to commencement of requisite infrastructure for operation.
Already, an all encompassing infrastructure master plan for the entire Ibom Industrial City (IIC) which has the deep sea port as its fulcrum is being developed.
The master plan is expected to encompass internal and external road network development to take care of traffic within the Industrial City and outside the area including inter-state transportation infrastructures which would ensure free flow of goods into and out of the port area.
According to Mrs. Mfon Usoro, Chairperson of the Port Implementation Committee, the infrastructure development master plan has considered urban design best practices aimed at factoring in growth potentials for the communities in the immediate environs of the IIC, in order to avoid the mistakes of the past and create an enabling environment for the natives to benefit from.
She noted that the IIC is truly going to be of international quality in terms of standards taking into consideration economic, social and environmental studies, infrastructure planning, physical planning, spatial planning and architectural designs.
Global Maritime and Port Services Pte Ltd (GMAPS) of Singapore is the Transaction Advisor while PwC, Nigeria, is the Project Manager for the IDSP project
The Ibom Deep Sea Port has a delivery date of 2019 which stakeholders presently see “a long shot.”
In spite of the quality of tested professionals from various fields of endeavor working on the project, 2019 delivery date may prove difficult.
There are indications that the Implementation Committee work schedule has been hampered by inefficient funding by the Akwa Ibom State government which is its major promoter with the federal government lending its support.
It is the believe of experts working on the project that with the prevailing gap in functional seaports in West Africa coupled with the demonstrated commitment of both the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Akwa Ibom State Government to create an enabling environment for private sector investors to exploit the opportunities in the industry, the Ibom Deep Seaport presents a compelling investment case that cannot be ignored by investors.
The IDSP is arguably one of the most promising Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure initiatives in Africa because of the unique/unparalleled investment opportunities it offers international seaport developers/operators/investors as well as its potential for driving inclusive economic growth in Nigeria and the West and Central African sub-region.
Nigeria, the biggest economy is reported to operate the biggest economy accounting for about 70 per cent of all sea-borne cargoes available in the West and Central African sub-region.
In the last seven years, it was reported to have spent a whopping N19.5 trillion on importation of industrial raw materials alone. This translates to an annual average of N2.7 trillion on imports.