No one could have seen the huge benefits lying under the vast expanse of land situated in Onne, Port Harcourt, until the Integrated Logistics Company (INTELS), took the bold step and berthed technical expertise to transform the port complex to one of the largest oil and gas free zones in the world.
The Federal Government had established the Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone in 1996, to provide an Oil Service Centre (OSC) for onshore and offshore operations, while providing the West Africa and greater sub-Saharan oil and gas industry with easy access and duty-free distribution facilities.
The facility had been under-used and partially built, until Intels Nigeria Limited refurbished it in1982, and the story became more interesting in 1995, when the first ocean vessel moored at FOT’s (Federal Ocean Terminal) Berth No. 1. This became the only berth for deep offshore support.
Today, all of the major industry players are operating from Onne, supporting the exploration and production (E&P) activities in Nigeria’s oil industry, with over 200 companies in the zone.Besides, the facility is generating about $6.5million into the Federal Government’s coffers yearly, while generating employment for over 10,000 Nigerians.
INTELS, known then as NICOTES (Nigeria Container Services), was founded in the early 1980s by an Italian (from Genoa, Italy), who is now a nationalised Nigerian, Gabrielle Volpi, and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar.
The amazing growth of INTELS from a container office at Apapa Port, Lagos, is a glowing tribute to the tenacity and resourcefulness of the Nigerian spirit. Its incremental yet astounding growth the past 30 years shows that clarity of vision is an essential growth incentive. It also contradicts the notion that Nigeria’s business environment is hostile to long term investment.
As Nigeria seeks to position herself at the front end of knowledge-driven service economy, companies like INTELS should be showcased as a model of business success. If there is any reason for optimism, it is the fact that history shows that INTELS is not unacquainted with the perils of cannibalistic politics.
Away from the huge edifice and its massive economic activities in Onne, Rivers State, INTELS is now embarking on other multi-billion dollar projects in Lagos, which include; the Badagry Deep seaport and Industrial Park Free Zone, Eko Atlantic Economic City, Eko Energy Estate, Eko Support Services, and Lekki International Airport and a host of others.The $2.6billion ultra-modern port and free zone, according to INTELS, is expected to create the platform for continued national and regional development.
“The ambition behind the Badagry Mega Port & Free Zone project is to partner with the Nigerian Government and business leaders to help plan Nigeria’s economic future by creating the port and inland solutions necessary to create strong, sustainable growth.
“Our proposal aims to address the expected infrastructure challenge and provide shipping lines and supply chain managers with the best productivity, location, flexibility and cost effectiveness to power the global supply chains of Nigeria’s leading brands. The state-of- the-art multi-purpose facility will offer customers superior hinterland connectivity and the deepest water in West Africa thus creating a sustainable competitive advantage for Nigeria going forward,” it said in a corporate statement.
The Lagos facility is also expected to bring global growth to Nigerian waters with a container terminal covering a total area of approximately 149 ha. The initial quay length would be 775 meters (regarded as two standard berths), and extended in four steps over time resulting in 2,490 meter of operational quay.
Accordingly, the terminal will have total yard depth of 500 meter extending from the quay line. The terminal will be initially designed to accommodate the 12,000 TEU large Emden Class vessels and will be expanded over time to eventually accommodate EEE class vessel of 18,000TEU in the long term.
Outfitted with ultra-modern ship-to-ship cranes and automated rail mounted cranes in the yard, the Badagry Container Terminal will be the largest and most modern in all of Africa.
Notwithstanding the challenges and political intrigues that it is facing, the oil and gas logistic conglomerate is also taking a giant stride in the establishment of refined products terminal, planned to be one of the largest in Nigeria. The facility is initially expected to operate with one jetty and 60-80 ha of tank farm space, while storage capacity for phase 1, will be approximately 210km but will be eventually expanded to 630kmt once the planned refinery operation begins.
The refinery product terminal will have a dedicated jetty with loading platform situated in the port on the inner side of the main breakwater. The refined product will then be pumped using the vessel’s on-board pumps to a tank farm approximately 1km from the jetty.
General Manager, Legal Services, INTELS, Mike Epelle, had earlier said the firm has expended huge sums of money in upgrading port facilities and building infrastructures as well as developing specialised oil and gas designated terminals based on the need and requirements of the oil and gas industry world-wide.
“Conservatively, the firm has, thus far, expended over $2 billion out of its own resources without amortisation in various projects, and has budgeted additional $5billion in phased port terminals development and infrastructural renewal,” he stated.Epelle said the huge investment by INTELS in five concessioned port terminals across the country were made in response to the Federal Government’s quest and demand for investment in port infrastructure development in Nigeria.
Also, its Corporate Social Responsibly (CSR) programmes have reportedly touched lives in its host communities. For instance, INTELS recently trained and empowered about 300 women in the Niger Delta region through its innovative, Women Empowerment Programme Scheme Synergy (WEPSS).
WEPSS was instituted to enable the women become leaders and to also promote a positive and strong image for Nigerian women.
INTELS, in its corporate social responsibility report, said: “Nigerian women are hardworking and blessed with innate skills. What we are doing at WEPSS is to offer them (women) world-class training in fashion design and sewing so that those sills can become economically-productive skills. This will in turn provide the security of regular income for the women and their families and as a result, support government’s poverty alleviation drive.”
The company said the scheme would encourage female entrepreneurship in Nigeria, while beneficiaries may choose to work in the Onne Free Zone, or decide to set up their own businesses and become self-employed.INTELS said WEPSS is just one of many initiatives developed by the company to support communities and empower people in the Niger Delta area and other parts of the country.
The company also provides free medical services and scholarships to undergraduates and secondary school students across Nigeria.The Paramount Ruler of Onne Clan in Rivers State, King John Dennis Osaronu, who spoke extensively about the tremendous impact of the company on the lives of community dwellers, said INTELS is a company Nigerians must be proud of.
The Royal Father said apart from its huge investment and creation of thousands of jobs in the Niger Delta region, INTELS has impacted positively on the lives of millions of Nigerians.
The Monarch said: “About 30 years ago, Onne was a virgin forest. Onne, as you see today was not what it was about 25 to 30 years ago. Even the port area was forest. We used to go there to hunt for monkeys and catch crabs – we called it crab land until INTELS came in.”
“Before INTELS came, the area was abandoned right from the time of Umaru Dikko as the Minister of Transport. Since INTELS came into our community, we have got so many changes and things are going on so well with us.
“They have empowered our children, men and women. They have built roads and provided us medical services. Recently they built us a 10-kilometre tarred road. They have built for us three schools and given us drainage system for the community.”According to him, INTELS also built a modern ultra-modern market constructed at the cost of N1billion and provided solar streetlights for the community.