The Nigerian federal government has approved the “outline business case” for the construction of a new deepwater port at Bakassi, close to the city of Calabar
The developers must now finalise the port development plan for approval, including by the state government of Cross River State, part of the Niger Delta and on the border with Cameroon. The Niger Delta has other ports, but they are either oil ports or have a shallow draft, with the exception of Onne West Africa Container Terminal.
Nigeria badly needs more port container handling capacity, as it is currently over-reliant on Apapa in the capital, Lagos, which has little scope for expansion. The existing port at Calabar sits on a river that would require dredging for a bigger port to be built there.
China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), which completed the pre-feasibility study and port design, has been named as “the core investor” on the scheme and would presumably receive the construction contract.
The project plan includes a water depth of 20m in the harbour and presumably also for each berth, as the governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, says that it will be the deepest port in Africa. Harbour construction costs are given by the developers as US$800M, with the entire project - including the construction of a container terminal - carrying a price tag of between US$1.7B and US$2B, but no capacity has been given for the container terminal.
It is intended that the port will be developed by a public private partnership (PPP). Project financing is now being sought but the involvement of CHEC could attract Chinese investment. The African Development Bank is considering investing in both the port and the new highway. A six lane highway has been proposed to link the port with the northeast of Nigeria.
The sovereignty of the nearby Bakassi Peninsula was transferred from Nigeria to Cameroon in 2008. It was feared that the area on both sides of the border could be destabilised by militant activity because of opposition to the transfer, but this has not happened.