Kenya is set to play a significant role in the maritime sector following the launch of Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL).
The Company, a state agency under the management of the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) will build, repair and refurbish ships and vessels for the government and the private sector.
With branches in Kisumu and Mombasa, the Kenya Shipyards Limited is poised to offer refits, maintenance and repair of all sea going vessels.
This is set to lower the costs of seeking the services abroad through multinational companies at the same time create job opportunities and help resuscitate the steel industry.
President Uhuru Kenyatta who officially opened the company in Kisumu last week and handed over the operationalization instruments to the Managing Director, Brigadier Paul Otieno, termed the move as a milestone in reviving lake transport in the East Africa region.
The refurbishment of the Shipyard, Kisumu Port, MV Uhuru (I) and dredging of the lake piers, he said signaled the government’s commitment in linking up the Country with the neighbouring, Uganda and Tanzania for trade.
The President also laid the keel for the construction of the 100-meter-long MV Uhuru (II) wagon vessel to complement MV Uhuru (I) which was refurbished by the Kenya Navy engineers last year.
MV Uhuru (II) wagon vessel which will be the first ship to be constructed at the Kisumu shipyard in 70 years, has the capacity of carrying 24 wagons.
Keel laying is one of the most significant dates in the life of a ship as it marks the formal recognition of the start of the ship’s construction.
President Kenyatta tasked the Kenya Shipyards team which is undertaking the project with technology support from Dutch firm, Damen Shipyards to fast track the process.
Construction of the vessel and phase two construction of the dry dock and slipway at the Kisumu shipyard, he said, would create over 1, 000 jobs.
The refurbished MV Uhuru (I), which was grounded for 13 years, he said has since shipped over 50 million litres of fuel from Kisumu to Uganda.
This, he added has reduced the cost of fuel in Uganda due to reduced transportation costs.
“The construction of MV Uhuru II will demonstrate our commitment to identify, harness and grow the skills needed to build our economy. In support of the ‘Big Four’ Agenda, the KSL shall catalyze ship building and technology transfer and we shall provide opportunities for the improvement of our operations,” said the President.
The President asked County Governments from the lake region to take advantage of the new development and revamp agricultural production and industries to tap into the wider East African market.
“These vessels will complete railway transport by shipping cargo wagons through the lake. I urge counties to revive farming and industrial activities,” he said.
Chief of Defense Forces (CDF), General Robert Kibochi, lauded the efforts of Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) who are behind the transformation of the Kisumu port and shipyard.
He added that the construction of MV Uhuru (II) which is larger than MV Uhuru (I) is set to make Kenya a dominant force in logistics support and transport within the lake.
The KSL, he said has also designed model fishing boats to be used by fishermen in the area, adding that the activities of the company shall help spur economic growth in the region.
By Chris Mahandara