Welders from China, Nigeria hired for pipeline construction

A KPC pipeline under construction at Kokotoni in Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE
A KPC pipeline under construction at Kokotoni in Mombasa. PHOTO | FILE 

Skills shortage has pushed Kenya to ship in about 50 Chinese, Nigerians and Lebanese workers to construct the new Sh43 billion Nairobi-Mombasa refined oil pipeline.

Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) said the country has only three specialised pipeline welders, prompting the Lebanese contractor to outsource “the rest” from the Middle East country.

Kenya turned to Nigeria for about 44 pipeline coaters, according to the KPC.

“The contractor had to import the workers from Lebanon, China and Nigeria due to a shortage of skills locally,” KPC managing director Joe Sang said during an oil and gas lecture at the University of Nairobi on Friday.

The short supply of the technicians has been blamed on growing shift of focus among learners towards degree courses perceived to lead to white-collar jobs while snubbing technical and vocational training.

The government has in recent years upgraded several national polytechnics to universities, amid concerns over a shrinking pool of certified technicians.

The KPC said the country is spending over Sh3.6 million monthly on the imported manpower for the pipeline that is set to be completed in September.

Mr Sang said the agency seeks to cut foreign staff costs with the opening of a gas and oil training school on Friday at its Morendat facility in Naivasha.

A consortium led by Lebanon’s Zakhem is building the new 20-inch multi-product pipeline to replace the aging existing one, which was constructed by the same company in 1978.

Sections of the existing 14-inch pipeline have suffered major corrosion, leading to partial blockages and inefficiencies. Demand for technical workers is set to further soar with the planned construction of a Sh210 billion crude oil pipeline from the Turkana oil fields to Lamu Port.

Some 2,000 Chinese workers are constructing the Sh327 billion Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway expected to be completed next year.

China Road and Bridge Company (CRBC), the contractor for the railway, opened a school in Voi to train Kenyans on railway construction, operation and management to teach steel assembling, bricklaying and masonry and scaffolding.