Kenyan President launches 1 800 ton locally built freighter

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Kenyan President William Ruto, also Commander-in-Chief of the country’s defence force, has officiated the commissioning and maiden launch of MV Uhuru II, a 1 800 ton capacity cargo ship destined for inland waters service.

Built by Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL), a State company under the Ministry of Defence, in partnership with Dutch company Damen Shipyards, Uhuru II was needed, according to a Kenyan Defence Ministry statement, to meet high demand for freight services in east African lakes.

Speaking at the function at the company’s Kisumu dockyard on 9 October, Ruto noted the event as a milestone for the shipbuilding industry in Kenya and the region. He said further KSL’s ability to build, repair and maintain ships locally and regionally was a reflection of the nation’s commitment to harnessing available resources and talents to meet both local and regional demand for quality maritime services and but also an example of the spirit of self-reliance and regional co-operation.

“MV Uhuru II 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 opportunities for businesses to thrive. There exists enormous business prospects in the construction, repair and maintenance of maritime vessels in the region and I urge KSL to go for those opportunities,” Ruto is reported as saying.

He urged county governments in the Lake Victoria Basin to take advantage of economic opportunities presented by the shipbuilding industry to unlock the economic potential in the Great Lakes Region. He assured those present of government’s continued co-operation with partners and stakeholders in the Lake Victoria Basin and beyond to sustainably exploit available natural resources to the benefit of Kenyans.

In closing, he thanked the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and KSL, which, with its strategic partners and stakeholders brought MV Uhuru II to life and improved overall operational readiness of the country’s defence industrial capacity.

KSL operates the Kisumu Shipyard and Mombasa Shipyard. While Kisumu was constructing the MV Uhuru II wagon ferry, Mombasa was busy refitting the Kenyan Navy vessel KNS Shupavu. This was re-dedicated in a 29 July ceremony at Mtongwe Naval Base in Mombasa.

The refurbishment began in November 2021 and, according to KSL, involved replacing major components such as engines, generators and other machinery, as well as upgrading the vessel’s electrical systems, navigational equipment and other onboard systems. The KNS Shupavu was given a fresh coat of paint and living quarters were renovated to improve crew comfort. A new davit crane was added for launching and recovering boats.

Mombasa Shipyard had  started work on the KNS Shupavu when it was officially opened in December 2021. It was established with assistance from Damen and includes a 4 000 ton slipway, 120x30x20 metre small parking building, 150x30x30 metre large parking building and four workshops.

KNS Shuja is one of two Shupavu class large patrol boats built by Gondan shipyard in Spain, acquired in 1996 to replace older vessels. They are armed with 76 and 30 mm guns.

KSL managing director Major General Paul Otieno said the KNS Shupavu’s refit being done in Kenya saved an estimated KES600 million ($4 million) and provided employment for 150 technical and 200 unskilled personnel. The refit was done within budget.

The co-operation between state-owned KSL and Damen is a successful public-private partnership (PPP). Further co-operation is coming through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on 29 August with India’s Goa Shipyard Limited. The agreement covers capacity building and collaboration in ship design and construction. Indian and Kenyan defence ministers held talks in Delhi to boost defence co-operation and the Kenyan official visited GLS’s shipyard on 31 August.

Established in August 2020 and launched in May 2021 under the Kenya Ministry of Defence, KSL was  part of Government efforts to expand the contribution of the blue economy to Kenya’s socio-economic transformation and has a broad mandate of catalysing ship building activities in East Africa. With only a few shipyards located along the eastern coast of Africa, Kenya’s strategic geographical location at the crossroads of crucial shipping lanes positions it to capitalise on shipbuilding and repair.