Lake Victoria fishermen to benefit from ‘smart’ boats

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024 02:00 | By
Boat in Lake Victoria
Boat in Lake Victoria. PHOTO/Print

Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL) has embarked on making 300 new climate smart artisanal boats to promote blue economy activities in Lake Victoria Basin.

Major General Paul Otieno, managing director of the parastatal under the Ministry of Defence said the new climate smart artisanal boats are targeting fishermen and traders providing transport services in the Lake.

“We are going to sell the boats to the fishermen, through their fisheries and co-operative Saccos working closely with the county governments,’’ he explained.

He said the boats, designed not to capsize, will reduce incidences of boat accidents. It is estimated the boats will cost between Sh800,000 to Sh1,400,000 depending on size and features although price could fall on mass production.

“Some of the boats are configured to carry cooler boxes and can be fitted with either internal or outboard engines depending on user specifications, Otieno told the press when he toured Kisumu Shipyard.

Mass production

 In addition to the boats being fitted with cooler boxes, flares, bond liners, GPS gadgets, Otieno disclosed they will also have life rafts, lifesaving rings and life jacket floats for fishermen in a bid to turn fishing into a profitable venture.

According to KSL Head of civil works, Simbi Omitto, the prices will be low if they embark on mass production of the boats. They are targeting fishermen in Migori, Homabay, Kisumu and Siaya circled by the Lake.

Homa Bay county, for instance, has over 10,000 artisanal boats managed through some 145 Beach Management Units (BMUs). However, the wooden ones not only destroy forests, but are unsafe and do not optimise fish catch haulage.

The use of fiberglass boats will aid in the fight against climate change through reduced deforestation.

The new climate smart boats initiative has the potential to completely transform the lakeside economy. Fisheries sector plays an important role in the economy by providing income, food, employment and foreign exchange earnings in Kenya.

Paul Otieno, Kenya Shipyards Ltd MD explains the features of the new boats targeting fishermen and transport services providers in Lake Victoria.
Paul Otieno, Kenya Shipyards Ltd MD explains the features of the new boats targeting fishermen and transport services providers in Lake Victoria. PHOTO/Print

The move is part of a broad and deliberate plan to open up the inland water transport systems in Lake Victoria.

This is being done in support of the National Government’s blue economy -Bottom-up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA). Otieno said KSL is keen on turning its focus to the blue economy sector by distributing artisanal fishing boats with nets and outboard motors.

Mass production

He said this is why KSL has been tasked with key projects of rehabilitating and upgrading Homa Bay, Kendu Bay and Mbita piers. They will serve as the feeder ports and link with Kisumu Port as the state exploits the blue economy potential.

Homa Bay Pier is being upgraded and rehabilitated by KSL at a cost of Sh500 million. The upgrade of the pier was launched late last year by President William Ruto. While launching Homabay International Investment Conference recently the President said the works will be done by June this year.

“We promised to refurbish the pier and we are glad work is on course. We will deliver the project in six months’ time,’’ stated Ruto. He also announced that they are building a new fish market around Lake Victoria. This will cost Sh600 million.

Homa Bay Governor Gladys Wanga welomed the projects being undertaken in the county and lauded the national government for working closely with her to deliver the projects.

According to Otieno, on completion, the pier will comprise modern facilities including transport landing bays. Others will be fish landing bays, cold storage depots, passenger waiting bays, public swimming areas and restaurants. “The new pier will improve user experience and fish handling by fishermen and traders.” 

Wanga said the focus by the national government on the blue economy sector will help promote economic growth and social inclusion. The sector developments, she said, would boost fisheries, tourism, maritime transport and offshore aquaculture activities and more.

The rehabilitation of the Homa Bay pier, she noted, will provide an opportunity for stakeholders to increase exports through Homa Bay to Uganda, Tanzania and beyond.

More on Business