Kenya’s navy will soon take delivery of the KNS Jasiri offshore patrol vessel, giving the navy the ability to operate at the extremities of the continental shelf. The ship will arrive after nearly seven years of delays.
“Negotiations are at a very advanced stage to have the ship delivered. Our officers from the Kenya Navy and the State Law office have been negotiating with the suppliers and we will soon have it delivered,” Department of Defence Director of Communications Bogita Ongeri stated in response to an enquiry by Kenya’s Daily Nation. However, he did not give a firm date of delivery.
The KNS Jasiri was ordered in July 2003 at a cost of Shs4.1 billion (USD$52 million) and was supposed to be delivered in August 2005, but never arrived due to a contractual dispute between Kenya and contractor Euromarine Industries (with Spanish shipbuilder Astilleros Gondan as subcontractor). Euromarine sued the government of Kenya after payments were suspended in June 2005. The Kenyan government recalled its officers on July 18, 2005.
The 90% complete vessel is docked at the port of Ribadeo, Asturias province, Spain. In September 2006 Kenya sent a fact-finding team to Spain to investigate the KNS Jasiri. It concluded that the vessel just needed to be armed and complete sea testing and crew training before being ready for service.
The 1 400 tonne vessel is 85 metres long, 13 metres wide and has a maximum speed of 28 knots (50 km/h). It can carry between 60 and 81 personnel.
Kenya has been strengthening its navy, particularly in light of increased Somali pirate activity off its coast and its fight against Somalia-based al Shabaab militia. In August last year the Kenyan navy officially took delivery of its KNS Nyayo and KNS Umoja patrol ships, which returned from a two and a half year refurbishment by Fincantieri in Italy.
The Nyayo class vessels are fast attack craft built in Britain by Vosper Thornycroft and delivered in 1988. They are 56.7 metres long, with a displacement of approximately 450 tonnes each and can reach a maximum speed of almost 40 knots and accommodate a crew of approximately 45.
During the delivery ceremony last year, Kenya’s defence minister Yusuf Haji made mention of the KNS Jasiri, saying that the Attorney General and the Minister for Finance would spearhead the final acquisition of the patrol vessel. “Negotiations are ongoing and we hope to finalise everything in the very near future,” Haji said.
Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment notes that the Kenyan Navy is the best equipped force on the East African coast and benefits from regular training exercises and assistance from the United Kingdom, United States, French and South African navies.
Its primary objective is protecting Kenya’s 500 km long coastline, particularly against the rising threat of piracy from its northern neighbour Somalia. According to Kenya’s Daily Nation, the country loses Sh37 billion (US$414 million) every year as piracy affects trade, fisheries and tourism. The Kenyan Shippers Council has estimated that piracy pushes up prices of imported goods by 10%.
As Kenya needs to provide a secure passage for ships passing through its waters, it acquired two Shupavu class large patrol boats (the Shujaa and Shupavu) from Spain in 1997 to replace and supplement its older designs. They are armed with 76 and 30 mm guns and are sent to deal with armed threats, such as pirates. However, the 480 tonne vessels have had range, serviceability and sea handling issues that limit deep water operations.
The United States has made funding available for a series of coastal surveillance improvements, including new patrol boats and coastal radar. In 2006 the US government donated Archangel class and Defender class boats to Kenya in to help combat piracy and drugs and arms trafficking.