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SECO

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Alpha Group has been operating in Kenya for almost three generations. The flagship company of its marine division is Southern Engineering Company Ltd (SECO), a firm that specialises in supplying construction services to the energy sector. Here, General Manager Omri Cohen talks about the company’s growth and its current work on a 310MW wind farm in Lake Turkana.

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lpha Group’s core services fall into two areas — food, and logistics and engineering. On the engineering side is SECO, which was established in 1957 and provides a range of marine, civil, and offshore engineering services in addition to shipbuilding services in projects across East Africa. “SECO was the first company created in the group, and actually used to do everything before the group started growing

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and different segments and other sister companies started coming up. In the early days, SECO was actually handling the fishing operations. This is actually how we started as a shipyard — we had to take care of our own vessels,” Cohen tells us.

Moving on

As the other companies in the group began to grow and develop, SECO slowly began to focus on the specific areas of marine engineering, camps and civil and mechanical engineering in which they still excel today.


Energy

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“Firstly there’s marine engineering, which includes piling, dredging, and offshore engineering activities,” he explains. “We are the only company to run a fully operational shipyard in east Africa.” Located strategically at the entrance to the port of Mombasa, SECO’s shipyard includes dry-docks, slipways, and facilities for constructing and repairing vessels as well as ocean going and projects to vessels for rivers and lakes. “The other area that we are now very much focused on is the camps’ division, which is the division responsible for assembling and managing the camps on-site. Then, the last area

Our turnover only increased for the last year because we were smart enough not to put all our eggs in one basket is all the civil and mechanical and EPC contracts we are targeting, mainly when it comes to renewable energy and green energy projects.” Kenya’s vision of producing an additional 5000MW of energy by 2017 is spurring new projects across the country, many of which are renewables. One project of particular interest is

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Energy

the 310MW wind farm project in the area of Lake Turkana. Once complete, the project will boost the country’s installed capacity by around 20%. ‘’SECO was the fi rst contractor on site and we are very proud of it! Altogether, it’s the biggest project of its kind to ever take place in Kenya,” says Cohen. Yet it is not just the scale of the development that has posed a challenge. The location itself — the eastern shore of Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake — is a remote and harsh environment, populated by indigenous tribes that have in some instances had little contact with the rest of the country. “Many have never been exposed to construction jobs on-site, so there is a lot of community coordination that’s required,” says Cohen. “Being the first ones on site, we were exposed to a lot of difficulties to begin with because we had to understand what they wanted, and we presented the whole project, as there was no-one else there initially. It was challenging, but we made it especially because of the great team we have up there.”

At the frontier

Along with renewable energy, SECO also has considerable experience in East Africa’s oil and gas sector, an area that has boomed in recent years following high-profile discoveries in countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania.

The 310MW wind farm will boost the country’s installed capacity by around

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This is actually how we started as a shipyard — we had to take care of our own vessels

As the project has progressed to first production, a moment that could transform Kenya’s economy, SECO has been very much involved.

Until recently, this resource boom had skirted Kenya, with the country struggling with hydrocarbon exploration as numerous wells came up dry, despite high hopes from international operators.

“We provide them with inspection services, steel work and specialized welding activities, all steel works, as well as fabrication of container units,” says Cohen. “And we’ve been doing this, including lifting and carriage activities, for the last four years.”

However, in 2012 Tullow Oil and Africa Oil Corp — heavyweight names in the continent’s exploration industry — struck oil in Lake Turkana, declaring their finds to be commercially viable.

Currently, the development is under some pressure as oil prices remain depressed, a situation that has led to numerous projects across Africa being suspended or cancelled.

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Given the cyclical nature of the market, and the fact that first oil is not forecast from Lake Turkana until 2018, well after prices are forecast to recover, its longterm future is not in doubt. Yet funding is still tight for SECO’s partners, meaning that its diversified portfolio has proved especially useful. “Our turnover only increased for the last year because we were smart enough not to put all our eggs in one basket,” says Cohen. At the same time, he remains upbeat about Kenya’s broader outlook. “All these energy and power projects in the country are attracting massive investments, and it’s going to be affecting the country, hopefully in a positive way. Even now you can see that Kenya has developed and it’s growing rapidly.”


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P.O Box no. 16701-80100 Mombasa, Kenya

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Southern Engineering Co. Ltd P.O.Box 84162 80100 Mombasa Kenya Pilot GSM: +254 733 203 156 / 722 203 156

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www.essentialbusinessmag.com ŠEssential Business Magazine 2015

Southern Engineering - SECO  

Powering On

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