A Kenyan company is increasingly making a name as a top ship assembler in the region.
The Mombasa-based Southern Engineering Co. Ltd (SECO) just completed the assembly of two cargo vessels for the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) putting Kenya on the map of emerging shipbuilding countries in the region.
The firm has completed two cargo ships for Tanzanian government with a capacity to handle 2,000 tonnes of dry cargo or 72 twenty-foot containers (TEUs). The barges were tested and certified to operate last week.
Due to the use of modern technology in the assembly, SECO has also secured contract from TPA to construct and deliver three pilot boats this year after it successfully built and tested the two cargo barges named Hapa Kazi Tu 01 and Hapa Kazi Tu 02.
The completion of the two vessels brings the number of such vessels built for two East African countries at SECO shipyard to five in less than a decade after Uganda government contracted the company to build four vessels in 2012.
The four vessels which were procured by Uganda authority include MV Albert Nile 1 which is a roll on roll off (RoRo) modular ferry specially designed to safely transport passengers and vehicles across Lake Albert in Uganda.
Other vessels built by SECO and delivered to Uganda include three passenger ferry MV Bisina, MV Obongi and MV Laropi which are modular passenger ferries that plies the Okokorio and Agule route, the Sinyanya channel and Umi route respectively.
SECO Shipyard General Manager Sanjiv Nair said the first vessel of the same series, Hapa Kazi Tu 01 was completed in July 31, 2019 and both vessels are scheduled for delivery to the client in Tanzania by mid this month.
"The vessels will operate in and around the Port of Tanga and the surrounding coastal waters and they were constructed in a record 20 months," said Mr Nair.
"With local assembly, it is easier to provide after-sales management at the facility's dry dock. Local assembly also creates the growth of the needed technology, a human resource for technical support and more jobs with huge economic spillover."
SECO was established in 1957 and has a long history of marine engineering, having developed shipbuilding and dry-docking facilities in a waterfront yard at Kilindi Wharf.
The firm also majors in shipyard repairs and marine engineering services. Other areas SECO focuses on are pipework installation, offshore civil works such as the Lake Turkana Wind Power project where the company was constructing the service camp.
Following SECO’s success, a section of maritime players now wants Kenya to invest in shipbuilding and stop depending on foreign vessels, as a way of shoring up the blue economy.
The players say the sector can employ more youths as the country is well located to offer marine services to different countries in the world.
“With the opening of Lamu port in the next few weeks, Kenya can build ships for different countries since the port will attract more international ships for transshipment,” said Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association chairman Roy Mwanthi.
"Kenya being a member of several international maritime bodies, has a chance to be the best market for ship building in Africa and must begin by investing in the African Marine and General Engineering Company and SECO in Mombasa that used to repair ships docking at the port of Mombasa," said Andrew Mwangura, a maritime expert.
The Kenyan government is eyeing the lucrative shipbuilding and repair industry following commissioning of a modern shipyard facility at the Kenya Navy Mtongwe base in Mombasa.
The government in April last year contracted Dutch firm, Damen Group, as the main project contractor and the project is expected to be completed July next year.
Damen Shipyards Group is a globally operating company with more than 50 shipyards, repair yards, and related companies, as well as numerous partner yards that can build Damen vessels locally.
Since 1969 it has designed and built more than 5,000 vessels and delivers up to 150 vessels annually.