Kenya will have its first home-built ship ahead of the August target, boosting the government’s plans on the blue economy.
The Sh2.4 billion vessel with a capacity of 1,800 tonnes is being built at the Kenya Shipyard Limited’s Kisumu facility by Kenyan agencies, including the KDF, in partnership with Dutch firm-Damen shipyards.
Christened MV Uhuru II, the vessel is expected to be ready by April this year, KSL management has said, as President Uhuru Kenyatta adds to his list of achievements before the end of his second term.
“Our aim is to deliver the vessel within the current financial year,” KSL deputy managing director Peter Muthungu said during a visit to the Kisumu dry dock.
Kenya joins the leagues of South Africa and Egypt in shipbuilding, with shipyards in Kisumu and Mombasa.
“The government is very passionate about the blue economy. 80-90 per cent of the world’s trade is through water so we must invest in capacity to be able to exploit the resources and potential in the blue economy,” government spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said.
The Kisumu Andrew Mombasa yards will also offer repairs and overhaul of vessels calling at Kenyan Ports.
President Uhuru commissioned the Kisumu Shipyard in May last year with the Mombasa facility following later in December.
During the December launch, Uhuru said shipbuilding will help unlock the country’s immense potential in the ocean and blue economy.
“The key sub-sectors of the blue economy, which include maritime transport and logistics, fisheries, as well as shipbuilding and repair, represent low-hanging fruits that must be exploited,” the President said.
The Kisumu Shipyard has created at least 1,897 jobs, with ripple effects being felt in the local economy, including supplies.
It will complement the old MV Uhuru 1 being operated by Kenya Railways, currently ferrying goods mainly petroleum products to Uganda.
The vessel was in operation between 1998 and 2009 before being grounded.
It was revived in May 2019 as the Sh3 billion rehabilitated Kisumu Port came back to life, giving hope to a comeback of the Lake Region trade mainly between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
MV Uhuru 1 has a capacity of 1,260 tonnes.
To date, it has done about 90 voyages to Port Bell in Uganda.
It has cut the transit time to 13 hours compared to four-six days by road, which has been facing clearance delays at the border during the pandemic.
” We will take advantage of the connection between the SGR and the refurbished meter-gauge railway which creates a flow of cargo from Mombasa to Kisumu to increase the volumes shipped through the lake, meaning more business for Kenya,” Kenya Railways operations manager (Kisumu) Michael Disi told reporters on-site, on Tuesday.
Completion of the second vessel, currently at 60 per cent, will bring the total Kenya vessel capacity at the Port of Kisumu to above 3,060 tonnes.
The government gave a 40 per cent waiver of importation of material making it cheaper to build the ship locally.
Importing a fully built vessel built out of Africa would cost the country Sh3.7 billion, according to KSL.
Kenya targets to increase exports and transshipment volumes through the Kisumu Port and Lake Victoria, with plans to expand into motor vehicles and containerised cargo.
“The demand for the use of Kisumu Port is increasing,” KPA general manager Kisumu port William Ruto said.
The use of lake transport has cut the cost of freight to Uganda by up to 30 per cent, compared to road, Oguna noted.
Meanwhile, KSL is building capacity through skill transfer, which will help Kenya expand its shipbuilding capacity using local talent.
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