Construction work on what will be west Africa�s deepest port has been pushed back to the third quarter of this year. The investor was unable to push the Nigerian government to allow fast-track enactment of legislation that would have allowed work to begin this month.

The $1-billion Lekki Port project, located 60 kilometers east of the city of Lagos, will feature a 1.5-km-long quay, an 8-km approach channel, 19.5-km channel depths, and a 560-m turning circle, making it the first deepwater port in west Africa to handle over two million 20-ft-equivalent containers a year, plus two liquid berths and one dry-cargo, bulk-cargo berth. The goal is to become a key transhipment hub capable of serving the entire West African coast, says Lagos Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) spokesman John Mastorouds.

Political uncertainty and restrictive laws on building and operating private ports in Africa�s most populous nation forced Lekki Port Enterprises, an investment arm of LFTZ, to delay major construction until September of this year. The current Nigerian Ports Authority has no legal framework to support construction and operation of private ports. All its eight major ports are owned by the federal government.

But a new Cabinet is now in place, and Jonathan Goodluck has been confirmed as acting president. LFTZ is confident the changed political scene will enable creation a forum to negotiate for a law that would hasten the construction of the new port. The investors have yet to disclose their sources of financing.

The U.K.�s Standard Chartered Bank is the financial adviser and arranger. Financial closure is set for completion in late 2012. In early April, Lekki Port Enterprises (LPE) released $60 million for initial preliminary project work. LPE is a partnership of LFTZ and Eurochem Corp., a Singapore-based company.

�We are also working with the Nigerian government to provide maritime support for brand new tugboats, pilot boats and Nigeria crews to operate them. We are looking at a fully fleshed-out container port and berth by summer 2011,� says Peter Banham, LPE�s project director.

Delta Marine Consultants, the Netherlands, designed the project�s marine structures. The project has received crucial Environmental Impact Assessment approval from the government, says Banham.

Project manager Louis Berger Group is finalizing terminal design, contractor selections and other activities, says Kundan Sainani, project director of finance.