Kenya eyes maritime hub status with modern shipyard

The shipyard at the Kenya Navy Mtongwe base in Mombasa. PHOTO | COURTESY

Operations at the modern shipyard at the Kenya Navy Mtongwe base in Mombasa have kicked off, as Kenya angles for a slice in the lucrative shipbuilding and repair business.

The completion of one of the largest shipyards with a slipway in East Africa is a new frontier for the country as it seeks maritime hub status and to tap the Blue Economy potential.

The Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL) slipway, which can handle vessels of more than 4,000 tonnes and 150 metres, will secure and winch ships out of the water into a working area for construction, repair, refitting and maintenance.

President Uhuru Kenyatta officially opened the facility on Friday.

He praised the army and their partners from the Netherlands for their hard work constructing the facility.

The shipyard has two shipbuilding hangers — one is 150 metres long and 30 metres high and the other smaller one is 120 metres long, 20 metres high and 13 metres wide.

The navy project in Mtongwe gives Kenya a competitive advantage in shipbuilding and maritime engineering in Eastern and Central Africa. It comes after the inauguration of a marine academy in Kisumu in March this year to boost human resource training.

“In the project, Kenya, which owns about 17 military ships, seeks to save $6,800 million per vessel in maintenance fees every 10 years considering since independence, all Kenyan ships are serviced and maintained overseas either in Spain or the Netherlands. Every ship has a life span of 10-15 years before a full makeover,” KDF says in a statement.

For the first time, Kenya will employ its own certified ship welders at KSL as part of government efforts to create over 10,000 jobs per year in the maritime sector. Ship welders have been foreigners.

Ship construction is not a new concept in Kenya as the MV Uhuru II was built at Kisumu port about over 70 years ago.

The global market for ship construction, estimated at $126 billion in 2020, is currently dominated by South Korea (40 percent), China (25 percent and Japan (15 percent).