History was made on Saturday at the Onne Port, Rivers State as leading container terminal operator, the West Africa Container Terminal (WACT), received the largest containership ever to berth at any Nigerian port.
The huge ship named Maersk Stadelhorn, with length overall of 300metres and beam of 48.2metres, has capacity to carry about 10,000 TEU (Twenty Equivalent Units) of containers. Before now, the regular containerships calling at Nigerian ports are those in the class of WAFMAX with maximum capacity of 4,500 TEU.
Maersk Stadelhorn successfully berthed at WACT, Onne on Sunday 15th August at 1600hrs and currently situated at berth 8 and overlapping on Berth 9 due to the very large size/frame.
“We are excited at this historic achievement. We thank the Nigerian Ports Authority for dredging the channels and for professionally piloting the vessel to the port. Without the effort, support and approval of NPA, this would not have been possible,” Country Manager of APM Terminals Nigeria, Klaus Laursen, said.
Laursen said that in addition to the support of NPA, the huge investment by APM Terminals in WACT also made it possible for the terminal to upgrade its services with modern cargo handling equipment to be able to handle very large container carriers.
“The feat recorded here at WACT is impressive. The significance of this development is that even the ports in Lagos will now have to try and catch up with the new standards set by WACT. It is also important to mention that this is happening at this critical time when economies of the world are facing a lot of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a mark of confidence in the Nigerian economy. We are saying that in spite of COVID-19, the Nigerian economy is strong and will continue to be buoyant. The COVID-19 challenges are temporary, and the economy will certainly record positive growth in the nearest future,” Laursen said.
The Managing Director WACT, Aamir Mirza, who spoke via telephone, said, “Over the last four years, we have continued on the journey to develop our business by investing in our people and container handling equipment and our handling this vessel is in line with our vision to make WACT the best performing container terminal in West Africa.”
Mirza said by successfully handling the 10,000 TEU vessel, the terminal operator has “once again proved to all our customers that WACT is capable of competing with other ports in Nigeria and West Africa”.
The Commercial Manager of WACT, Noah Sheriff, said the terminal has become the gateway to East Nigeria and a strong alternative to ports in Lagos over the years with the multimillion dollars investment made in information technology and modern cargo handling equipment.
He said, “The rapid growth you see at WACT today is partly because of our e-commerce capabilities that allow landside customers to do business with WACT from literally anywhere across Nigeria coupled with our continuous investment approach, which has resulted in such upgrade from our liner customers.
We are excited about the significant milestone recorded today in WACT, Onne. This is a positive development for Onne Port and the entire business community because large vessels come with many benefits for authorities, liner customers, and landside customers.
“Recall that in December 2019, we handled a containership measuring 265 metres in length overall which at the time was the first gearless vessel and the largest containership to visit a seaport outside the Lagos area.
It took us only 2.75 days to turnaround the vessel. Also in January this year, we handled another large gearless containership with a capacity of 3,081 TEU deployed by Pacific International Lines (PIL). So, we have continued to enhance our capacity, capabilities, and you can see another example today with the berthing of Maersk Stadelhorn.
“Before now, it would be difficult to imagine that such a humongous ship could berth in Nigeria, but here we are with the ship at our berth. We must thank the Nigerian Ports Authority for the dredging of the channel to make it possible for this ship to come in. The NPA Managing Director has indeed been very supportive,” Sheriff said.
The Port Manager of Onne Port, Alhassan Ismaila, along with his management team, and senior Customs officers from the Nigeria Customs Service Port Harcourt Area II Command joined the WACT team to receive the vessel.
In 2019, WACT invested $14 million in the acquisition of sophisticated modern cargo handling equipment including two Mobile Harbour Cranes, 14 Specialized Terminal Trucks and two Reach Stackers. In 2020, the company announced a further investment in its Phase Two upgrade.
The Phase Two upgrade includes the acquisition of three additional Mobile Harbour Cranes, bringing the total in operation to five; 20 Rubber Tyre Gantry Cranes; three Reach Stackers; 13 terminal trucks and trailers and an empty container handler. The upgrade will also include the deployment of reefer racks with a 600-plug capacity, as well as expansion of the current yard, new workshop and a new terminal gate complex.