ombasa port has become an important centre for ships to change and repatriate seafarers. Last year, Kenya developed guidelines that have enabled coordinated embarkation and disembarkation processes for seafarers during the pandemic period.
This has enabled safe crew change as well as established safe COVID-19 transmission prevention measures to be observed by those interacting with the seafarers’ crew change. So far, 1800 seafarers have been handled through the centre.
Crew change at the Port of Mombasa, according to Ms. Nancy Karigithu, the Principal Secretary in charge of State Department of Shipping and Maritime Affairs, has been allowed for seafarers who have completed their employment contracts in accordance with the seafarer employment agreements; those no longer medically fit to work on board ship; those wishing to sign off on compassionate grounds; and seafarers whose sign off does not affect the safe manning of the ship. She spoke virtually last week when the country celebrated International Day for seafarers themed ‘ Fair Future for Seafarers’
The implementation of crew change protocols by the Government of Kenya has in turn availed other opportunities, according to PS. It has marketed Mombasa Port as a crew change centre to the global shipping industry which has brought with it various opportunities for local businesses such as shipping agents, hotels, airlines and local transport providers.
It has also created employment of Kenyan seafarers who have been sought to replace foreign crew signing off in Kenya and has strengthened inter-agency cooperation between government agencies involved in crew change such as the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), Port Health, State Department of Immigration Services and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) as they work together very closely and on a daily basis, to facilitate crew change requests, Karigithu said.
“Kenya is cognizant of the challenges faced by seafarers and the global shipping industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a such, the nation has recognized and embraced seafarers as essential workers,” Karigithu said, adding that the Government has prioritized seafarers in the receiving of COVID-19 vaccines.
“Additionally, the government is exploring ways of ensuring their access to medical services at a time when the industry is under sharp focus by the health authorities. In this regard, one of the measures under consideration is to establish a medical clinic for seafarers at the Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA) to cater for the unique needs of seafarers,” Karigithu said.
Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), according to Director General Robert Njue has accredited medical practitioners to examine seafarers to ensure that they are medically fit to work on-board ships. The Authority has currently approved seven medical institutions for seafarers which include the Mombasa Hospital, Bandari Clinic, Watamu Hospital, Mombasa Medical Practice, Kisima Health Facility, Coast X-ray Centre and the Masala Healthcare Services Limited.
In respect to overseeing the recruitment of seafarers, KMA has licensed seven Recruitment and Placement Agencies for Seafarers in accordance with Reg. 1.4 of the Maritime Labour Convention, (MLC) 2006 as amended and Section 118 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009.
With regard to the welfare of seafarers, the government is committed to resolving the current disparity in wages of Kenyan seafarers and seafarers from other countries who have an established wage standard to ensure that Kenyan seafarers receive equitable pay for equal work onboard ships.
“We are keenly following up on the development of a Wage Standard for Kenyan seafarers to ensure that Kenyan seafarers are competitively remunerated, and also encourage new entrants to the seafaring profession,” Karigithu said.
The Constitution of the Wage Council is due to be Gazetted any day by the State Department of Labour in accordance with the Labour Institutions Act, 2007 on Sectoral Wage Councils. This will enable Kenya meet its obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 of ‘minimum working and living standards for all seafarers on ships’, and will further set fair competition and a level-playing field for quality owners of ships flying the flags of countries that have ratified the Convention.
The Convention is unique in that it aims to achieve decent work for seafarers and to secure economic interests through fair competition for quality ship owners.
The Government is dedicated to progressing the welfare of seafarers by providing an adequate regulatory framework that supports the fair treatment of seafarers. Kenya ratified the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006 in 2014 and the review of the Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour) Regulations is currently ongoing to ensure that Kenya complies with the requirements of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006.
The review is a collaborative effort between the State Department of Shipping and Maritime, KMA and the World Maritime University.
Furthermore, the Government has championed the ratification of key maritime conventions that will improve the safety and welfare of seafarers; including the and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006. This is set to be achieved through collaboration with the relevant Government Departments and Agencies.
Some of the Conventions proposed for ratification include: the International Labour Organization (ILO) Seafarers Identity Document Convention No. 185, amendments to the Maritime Labour Convention, 2006, The ILO Convention 188 for protection of Fishers rights, the Cape Town Agreement, 2012, which regulate Safety of Fishing Vessels and the IMO Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishers (STCW-F).