A section of sector players in the maritime industry now wants Kenya to invest in shipbuilding and stop depending on foreign vessels on its waters.
The players said Kenya, being a member of several international maritime bodies, has a chance to be the best market for ship building in Africa.
Andrew Mwangura, a maritime expert, said Kenya must begin by investing in the African Marine and General Engineering Company (AMGECO) and the Southern Engineering Company(SECO) in Mombasa that used to repair ships docking at the Port of Mombasa.
“Kenya must also invest in shipbuilding, train naval architects, marine engineers, top notch mechanical and electrical engineers to serve ship builders in Africa,” Mr Mwangura said.
AMGECO, he said, was incorporated in Kenya in 1928 and was one of the most known ship repairing companies in East Africa. It also gained international reputation in both marine and non-marine sectors.
“Before things went wrong under mysterious circumstances in 1990s AMGECO gained international repute in both marine and non-marine sectors. The company gained confidence of international ship-owners, that included the British Royal Navy, the French Navy, Kenya Navy, Tanzania Navy and the US Navy(MARAV) and US Navy(SRU) in Bahrain,” said Mr Mwangura.
His sentiments were echoed by the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA) chairman Roy Mwanthi who said Kenya has the capacity to build ships. He however said that it’s only through good will that the country can realise the objective.
“Kenya has the capacity to start a ship building venture and it will work well. Remember Kenya is known worldwide in the marine and maritime sector. We have so many engineers whom the government can use them to establish such an industry,” said Mr Mwanthi.
He said hat the benefits of a country having its own flagged ship are many, ranging from creating employment to getting an international recognition in that sector.
“If the government can opt to start that industry, then rest assured the number of jobs that will be created are immense. From casual labourers to engineers who are so many and jobless at the moment. This will be the best opportunity to realize it,” said Mr Mwanthi.
A ship building industry, he added will be a ready market for Africa because of its geographical locality.
“Ship building takes place along the shoreline and in Kenya. It means that the process should be located in Mombasa port. Again this will open an opportunity for international recognition of the port,” he said.
“Remember years back we had a ship yard repair near the port that was being manned by the government but it went under. So the government needs to rethink on how to invest in this sector now.”
However, speaking to Shipping and Logistics, the Car importers Association of Kenya(CIAK) chairman Peter Otieno said Kenya still has a long way to go to reach the level of ship manufacturing.
He urged the government to start by developing policies that will liberate industrialization which is currently on its death bed.
“How can we think of ship manufacturing when we import even match sticks, a product that we used to manufacture in Kenya in the yesteryears? The government must stop relying on international imports all the time and push for the establishment of industries,” he said.
Mr Otieno said the government should start by buying a vessel for the Kenya National Shipping Line(KNSL), register it in Kenyan flag and let it operate on the Indian Ocean.
“That KNSL vessel should be repaired at a government ship yard and we must start from there before we decide to venture into manufacturing vessels. It is a tall order because of our policies that always favour foreign imports year in year out,” he said.