When President Uhuru Kenyatta commissions the new shipyard in Mtongwe, Mombasa, tomorrow, the country will boast of the largest slipway shipyard in East Africa.
The facility owned by the Kenya Shipyard Ltd (KSL), a company operated by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), is expected to boost maritime operations in the region. The shipyard will be used in the building and repair of vessels.
Maritime experts who spoke to Shipping and Logistics said the new shipyard will be a game-changer for the blue economy.
Ships, including foreign ones, will be drawn from water and secured at the yard for repair. KDF has, for the last two years been involved in developing the facility that lies just a few metres from the Port of Mombasa.
It has a capacity to handle 4,000-tonne vessels, which are 150 metres long, 30 metres high, 30 metres wide and with a draft of six metres.
The shipyard has a small parking lot and a hangar, which is 120 metres long, 30 metres wide and 20 metres high.
It has four main workshops - an electronic repair workshop, a marine and general engineering workshop, a fitting and carpentry workshop as well as an hull and superstructure repair workshop.
Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Chairman Geoffrey Mwango said the shipyard is expected to offer lower rates for ship repairs.
“The shipyard will attract foreign vessels for repairs which means good revenue for the country. We expect shipbuilding to grow locally,” he explained. Kenya’s blue economy is worth $106 billion (Sh12 trillion).
Mr Mwango revealed that Southern Engineering Company Ltd, a ship building company based near the port, recently delivered five vessels to Tanzania. It has in the past built such ships for Uganda. The firm is expected to make use of the new public shipyard.
Mombasa also hosts the African Marine and General Engineering Company, another ship building firm.
Southern Engineering had teamed up with Daemen Shipyard of Denmark to build the modern vessels that have been received well in Tanzania and Uganda.
Sylvester Kututa, Managing Director of Express Shipping and Logistics Company, said the public shipyard will create jobs and market the Port of Mombasa particularly in cruise tourism. This is because of the cheap ship repair rates it is offering.
“The government can offer incentives to the shipbuilding and repair industry; for example low levies for steel,” said Mr Kututa.
“This can lead to quality services. I believe a similar facility can be built in the new Lamu Port. In the end, Kenya can make ships for the world.”
KSL was established as a State agency under the Ministry of Defence. It has a mandate to build new ships, refit, convert, repair and maintain ships locally and regionally.
“Shipbuilding will create business and job opportunities for primary and secondary manufacturing industries,” said Kututa.
KDF Spokesperson Colonel Esther Wanjiku said KSL is taking position as a critical player in the shipbuilding industry.
She said the industry could be a major cog in spearheading the manufacturing pillar of the government’s Big Four agenda.
“KSL is focused on leveraging on its business relationships with other State departments to penetrate and maintain its captive market comprising mainly players in the blue economy like Kenya Navy, Kenya Ports Authority, Kenya Coast Guards Services, Kenya Maritime Authority, Kenya Railway Corporation among others,” Wanjiuku said.