Kenya banks on new shipyard in push for regional maritime hub


The slipway shipyard has a capacity to handle vessels of more than 4,000 tonnes and 150 metres long. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Kenya is eyeing the lucrative shipbuilding and repair business after the completion of a modern shipyard facility at the Kenya Navy Mtongwe base, in Mombasa.

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

The project gives Kenya a competitive advantage in shipbuilding and maritime engineering in Eastern and Central Africa, while the inauguration of a marine academy in Kisumu will help boost human resource training for sustainable growth of the industry.

The slipway shipyard has a capacity to handle vessels of more than 4,000 tonnes and 150 metres long.

A slipway, which is a first in East Africa, functions as a platform on which ships are secured and winched out of the water into a working area for construction, repair, refitting and maintenance of sea vessels whereas a shipyard or a dockyard is a place where ships are built or repaired.

The shipyard will have 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 facility which was scheduled to be opened this month will see Kenya start building, repairing and maintaining its own vessels next year.

“The new shipyard in Mtongwe is ready is awaiting its operationalisation anytime by President Uhuru Kenyatta and it will save the country billions of shillings,” said Kenya Defense Force in a recent notice.

Currently, when a Kenyan vessel requires repair, it is taken to private firms such as SECO Marine and Offshore Engineering, or outside the country, which is expensive.

The navy project, as well as the newly launched Kisumu port, underline Kenya’s ambition to be a big player in maritime transport in the region.

Kenya has already formed a full department on Blue Economy and now seeks to acquire specialised vessels for deep-sea fishing in the Exclusive Economic Zone where a vast amount of untapped marine fisheries resources are found. Securing marine assets also requires well-equipped vessels and Kenya Shipyard Limited is tasked with offering technical support.

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).

Kenya is angling for a slice of this lucrative pie hence the need to enhance its capacity to build modern vessels to reduce reliance on foreign-built ships.

Improving shipping and maritime infrastructure is a key component of Kenyan’s economic roadmap. This is aimed at harnessing the full potential of maritime resources.

Africa’s shipping and maritime sector is largely under-developed. But according to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the continent’s share of world maritime exports is currently at 7 percent and growing hence investing in shipbuilding has the potential to transform African coastal states into maritime hubs.