High taxes and delays in clearance of goods at the Port of Mombasa are choking the growth of Kenya’s fledgeling boat building industry.
According to industry players, this is forcing many to opt for importing boats from China, Dubai and other markets due to the high cost of the units in Kenya.
Andy Thomas Chief Executive Officer of Captain Andy’s fishing boats says taxes make up about 45 per cent of the total cost of a single boat compared to 15 per cent in Seychelles and around 20 per cent in South Africa.
Kenya’s boat building industry has gone through a cycle of booms and bust in the last three decades.
From the high flying era of luxury boat races of the 1990s significant drop in orders due to insecurity in the Kenyan waters, it has been a rough season for players in the market.
According to statistics from the Kenya Maritime Authority, there are more than 20,000 luxury, fishing and search and rescue boats in the Kenyan waters and the number is rising due to the growth of artisanal fishing in lakes and rivers.
However, the growth of Kenyan made boats is facing a bleak future due to high taxes that makes up almost half the cost of a locally assembled boat.
Captain Andy’s is the largest maker of fishing and luxury boats in the region selling around 40 boats to clients.
Andy says Kenya which has been the dominant player in the region is now facing stiff competition from new markets.
Following the 2007/08 post-election violence and increased insecurity along the Kenyan coastline, the luxury fishing industry has never recovered fully from the shocks.
However new opportunities are emerging especially in South Sudan where relief agencies are opting to use boats along river Nile to supply relief food and medication.
Another growth frontier is the growth of the artisanal fishing in Kenya which is supporting the growth of the industry.