Kenyan Navy receives two refurbished patrol vessels


Italian shipping firm Fincantieri has delivered two refurbished patrol vessels to the Kenyan Navy. The Nyayo and Umoja were handed over after undergoing a mid-life refit at its La Spezia shipyard near Genoa in northeastern Italy.

Fincantieri received the order from the Kenyan Navy in 2008, beating out competition from the UK, Holland and South Africa. The order, “is indicative of the company’s interest in the African market which has seen a significant increase in demand for new vessels for Navies and Coast Guards in response to the need to guarantee a greater control of territorial waters and to effectively combat terrorist attacks on maritime traffic, piracy and illegal fishing activities,” Fincantieri said in a statement.

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. They will carry out coastal patrols and activities to combat smuggling and piracy.

As part of the mid-life refurbishment process, Fincantieri replaced approximately a third of the structure on each vessel and rebuilt their hulls. The company also worked on the propulsion systems, propellers, electrical equipment, furnishings, installation and flooring. It replaced all the command and control equipment on the vessels and installed new equipment, including Furano navigation radar. Fincantieri also removed the four launchers for the Oto Melara/Matra Otomat Mk 2 SSM system. The two upgraded vessels were handed over on Thursday.

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.

At some stage in the future Kenya may receive the KNS Jasiri offshore patrol vessel, which was ordered in 2003 at a cost of Shs4.1 billion (USD$52 million). It was supposed to be delivered in August 2005 but never arrived due to a contractual dispute between Kenya and contractor Euromarine Euromarine (with Spanish shipbuilder Astilleros Gondan as subcontractor). When the vessel finally enters service, it will give the navy an ability to operate at the extremities of the continental shelf.