andari Maritime Academy (BMA) is riding on innovations and partnerships to tackle the numerous challenges facing Maritime Education and Training in Kenya as it seeks to drive the Blue Economy (BE) agenda.
Having identified BE as the next economic growth frontier, the Government of Kenya, through Legal Notice No. 233 of 28th November 2018 transformed the then Bandari College into Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA), making it a Semi-Autonomous Government Agency (SAGA).
To awaken the ‘sleeping giant’ that BE has been, there is a great need to train a competent workforce hence the reason the government took the initiative to upgrade Bandari by making it a Centre of Excellence in maritime training.
It was established in 1980 as an in-house facility to equip Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) operations staff and the now-defunct Kenya Cargo Handling Services Limited (KCHSL) workers with skills to improve efficiency, enhance good performance and make the port of Mombasa competitive.
Since its establishment, the college has enjoyed a checkered career in its efforts to address maritime industry gaps. During its formative years, Bandari expanded its scope to offer training in nautical studies and received attention outside the Kenya territory by admitting students from the Indian Ocean hinterland.
“All through the 80s and 90s, the College expanded in scope. It also benefited from internationally funded capacity-building partnership programs that facilitated curriculum development and training staff” said Chief Eng. Titus Kilonzi, is a marine Chief engineer with over 35 years of sea time, 30 of them as a Ship Chief Engineer.
Eng. Kilonzi, who oversees training at BMA said that the success of the BMA is anchored on the support the institution has received from both the management and the Board of Directors.
This could not hold for long after the college became overwhelmed with maritime sector training needs and the demand to expand the scope of training to address the global maritime sector trends.
Things have, however, made a dramatic turn in recent years. Since 2015, the government has expressed its intention of prioritizing the implementation of sustainable blue economy programs due to its potential and the shrinking of land-based resources due to population rise. Kenya has ocean-based resources spread over an area of 245,000 km², equivalent to 42 percent of her total land area.
It is against this background that led the government to upgrade Bandari. In a span of less than four years now, the Academy recorded full occupancy, hosting over 400 students in the Modular courses, both the Marine and Transport sectors, who are pursuing Diploma and Certificate courses. Around 300 students enroll for short courses every month.
The academy offers diplomas in Nautical Science, a Diploma in Marine Engineering, a Craft Certificate in Nautical courses, and a Craft Certificate in Marine Engineering. Other courses offered include Fire prevention and firefighting, Personal Survival Techniques, Personal Safety and Social Responsibility, Elementary First Aid, Basic safety Refresher Training, and Proficiency in Survival Craft other than Fast Rescue Boat.
In collaboration with other strategic partners, the Academy has developed curriculums in Ship Security Officer, Tanker Familiarization, Rating forming part of Navigational watch II/4, Rating forming part of Engineering watch III/4, Rating as AB Seafarer Deck II/5 and Rating as AB Seafarer Engine room III/5 which will admit students in due course.
The Academy has sought global partners in its course development endeavors. For instance, in 2021, BMA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the City of Glasgow College to assist BMA in rolling out new courses. The MOU established a strong link between the two institutions that will see BMA get help to develop teaching materials.
With these new courses and more to be rolled out in the coming years, the Academy, according to Kilonzi, expects the numbers of enrollment to increase.
“This is as a result of the vigorous sensitization sessions that the Academy has been carrying out in the last 8 months of inter-county visits,” Eng. Kilonzi said.
There has been a serious challenge of the shortage of trainers, which is not unique to the Academy but a national crisis. As a result, the Academy relies on part-time trainers.
“However, the Academy is in the process of employing full-time resource persons to bridge the gap,” Eng. Kilonzi said.
The Academy is also attracting career seafarers to make them part of the management and training personnel.
“It is encouraging to learn that the new Deputy Director of the Maritime Education & Training is a sea-going Chief Engineer, and the Senior Principal Trainer in Marine engineering is also a marine engineer who has sailed onboard sea-going vessels,” Eng. Kilonzi noted, adding that the Academy also hunts experts from its database to train any time a gap is identified.
The Academy has been seeking MoUs with other Maritime Training Institutes in Kenya and the world over with a major reference being the procurement of trainers/lecturers, according to Kilonzi.
Recently, Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL), BMA, and the State Department of Shipping and Maritime Affairs converged at a workshop in Nakuru to sign their respective Performance Contracts in a session where the senior management got to discuss an array of issues of universal interests that included addressing training needs.
The SAGA management team agreed to hold regular workshops to brainstorm and help the government in developing policy and legal gaps affecting maritime education and training in Kenya.
Infrastructure is a critical component in maritime training, which again has bedeviled the country. The Academy has engaged a consultant who has developed a grand Master Plan for the academy for the next 25 years.
“This project is meant to be completed in 10 years at a cost of approximately KSh 20b that the Academy would seek assorted assistance from other partners because the amount is huge,” Eng. Kilonzi said. The proposed ambitious project will have a state-of-the-art training complex fully equipped with modern training facilities, a maritime training survival center, an advanced firefighting training center, a modern library, a docking quay, and a seafront restaurant amongst others.
“However, as a stop-gap measure, the academy has been offered some training space at the yet-to-be-occupied KMA Towers. This shall address the Academy’s immediate infrastructural needs and address the increasing challenge brought about by a huge demand for short courses,” Eng. Kilonzi said.
On training infrastructure, BMA has been relying on Kenya Coast Guard boats and their crew. It has also signed MoUs with shipping lines to offer sea time, which is a critical requirement, industrial attachment, and even placements.
“We feel that they could do better by increasing the numbers. CMA-CGM and MSC have particularly been of great assistance to our trainees and graduates. Alba Petroleum has been availing their vessels whenever we needed to use them,” Eng. Kilonzi said.
In 2021, BMA signed an MOU with the CMA-CGM shipping line to facilitate support for the training and enhancement of skills and competencies in Kenya’s maritime sector. Through the agreement, opportunities will be developed to provide sea time opportunities to cadets and shore-based shipping and port operations skill development.
The shipping cruise lines have been recruiting heavily from the Hospitality industry in Kenya and the recruits get trained on Basic safety at the BMA before flying out to join their respective workstations.