Kenya’s Landmark Achievement: Uhuru II Sets Sail on Lake Victoria, Boosting Trade and Regional Growth
Kenya proudly celebrated a significant milestone in its maritime ambitions as the country unveiled its first locally constructed ship, the Uhuru II, destined to navigate the waters of Lake Victoria. This momentous occasion not only signifies Kenya’s prowess in shipbuilding but also heralds a new era of economic opportunities and increased trade within the East Africa Community (EAC).
Constructed by the military-controlled Kenya Shipyards Limited in collaboration with Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards, the 328-foot Uhuru II marks a historic feat as Kenya’s inaugural commercial cargo vessel. The construction, a complex task initiated on May 29, 2021, was completed within a remarkable 24 months, showcasing Kenya’s efficiency and expertise in the maritime domain. The shipyard, primarily involved in military maintenance work, accomplished the ambitious project despite its intricate design, making it a testament to Kenya’s growing shipbuilding capabilities.
The Uhuru II boasts a cargo capacity of 1,063 tonnes and is specifically designed for transporting various commodities, including petroleum oil products and bulk dry cargo such as cereals, fertilizers, sugar, and seeds. Fitted with Caterpillar 3500 series marine diesel engines, the vessel can accommodate up to two million liters of crude oil per trip and sails at a cruising speed of 14 knots. This cutting-edge vessel is not merely a mode of transportation; it embodies a catalyst for economic growth, job creation, and thriving businesses in the region.
Kenyan President William Ruto, during the vessel’s commissioning on October 9, emphasized its significance, stating, “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 up opportunities for businesses to thrive.”
The timing of this achievement aligns with the upward trajectory of intra-regional trade within the seven EAC partner states, reaching $10.1 billion in 2022, up from $9.5 billion in 2021. To further bolster trade, the region is committed to streamlining goods transportation and eliminating bottlenecks, including non-tariff barriers.
Uhuru II will share the waters with its predecessor, MV Uhuru, a vessel in operation since 1966, ferrying goods, primarily petroleum products, to neighboring Uganda. Furthermore, Kenya’s strategic move includes the construction of a new jetty in Kisumu, specifically catering to the oil business. Since its inception earlier this year, the jetty has facilitated five trips, transporting a staggering 20 million liters of fuel to Uganda, demonstrating its effectiveness and potential.
Buoyed by this success, Kenya has ambitious plans on the horizon. The country has announced its intention to construct three more ships, all earmarked for oil exports through Lake Victoria. This initiative not only underscores Kenya’s commitment to bolstering its maritime capabilities but also positions the nation as a regional leader, fostering economic growth, trade, and prosperity for its people.