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Kisumu’s Sh2.4bn MV Uhuru II to unlock Blue Economy

Kenya is positioned to become a shipping hub following the commissioning and launch of the Sh2.4 billion MV Uhuru II waggon ferry at Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL) in Kisumu County.

President William Ruto, while officiating the inauguration ceremony, said that the construction of the 100-metre-long vessel was occasioned by the need to complement MV Uhuru I and meet the rising demand for the transportation of goods within the Lake Victoria region.

The President hailed KSL for the milestone, saying that it would position Kenya as a shipbuilding and repair destination in the East Africa region.

Further, he underscored Kenya Shipyards’ ability to build, repair, and maintain ships for the local and regional markets as a reflection of the nation’s commitment to harnessing available resources and talents to meet the region’s growing demand for quality maritime services.

The Sh2.4 billion MV Uhuru II cargo ship was commissioned by President William Ruto at Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL) in Kisumu County on Monday. Photo by Chris Mahandara

“MV Uhuru II before us is not only a means of transportation but also a catalyst for economic growth and development in our region. It will facilitate trade, create jobs, and open up opportunities for businesses to thrive,” stated the Head of State.

Dr. Ruto added, “There exist enormous business prospects in the construction, repair, and maintenance of maritime vessels in the region, and I urge KSL to go for these opportunities.”

President Ruto pointed out that Kenya Shipyards has been contracted to repair and maintain marine vessels for various ministries, state departments, and agencies like the Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Coast Guards, Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Marine Research Institute, and other private operators in the Indian Ocean as well as Lake Victoria.

According to the President, the revival of Kenya’s maritime transport and logistics sector through shipbuilding corroborates with the Bottom Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA), which recognises the blue economy as a critical component of sustainable national economic growth.

Speaking at the same event, the Managing Director of KSL, Maj. Gen. Paul Otieno, noted that MV Uhuru II, which had been constructed from scratch by KSL personnel in conjunction with Damen Gorinchem Company from the Netherlands, would double Kisumu Port’s haulage capacity to over 2,300 metric tonnes.

“Today is a day of immense pride and accomplishment as we witness the commissioning ceremony of MV Uhuru II, which embodies the relentless spirit of innovation, collaboration, craftsmanship, and teamwork that defines our organization. This marine vessel is more than just a product of steel and machinery; it is a testament to KSL’s capacity to overcome challenges, adapt to changing environments, and conquer the complexities of modern shipbuilding,” noted Maj. Gen. Otieno.

The vessel, he added, will navigate, connect economies, forge partnerships, and contribute to marine commerce within the East African Community.

MV Uhuru I, built in 1965, was brought into operation after her successful rehabilitation by the Kenya Defence Forces in 2019 with a capacity to carry 1,260 tonnes of cargo.

Subsequently, MV Uhuru II is capable of transporting 1,063 metric tonnes of cargo and is optimised for the transportation of petroleum oil products as well as cereals, fertilisers, sugar, and seeds.

Construction of MV Uhuru II was completed within a period of 24 months, 12 months ahead of the usual 36 months that it ordinarily takes to complete a project of such magnitude.

Maj. Gen. Otieno observed that with the high completion rate for the maiden project, Kenya managed to save substantially in production costs and gain immensely in terms of job opportunities for youths.

“Critical skills in shipbuilding have been passed to the youth through internship programmes and hands-on job training throughout the construction phase of this vessel,” said the MD.

He added that shipbuilding activities will provide maritime assets, capabilities, technologies, and skills for Blue Economy players in fisheries, maritime transport, extractive natural resources, marine renewable energy, and maritime security.

By Robert Ojwang’

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