enya Maritime Authority (KMA) has spelt out a number of requirements that vessel owners recruiting Kenyan seafarers must adhere to in recruiting to protect the labour rights. These rules are spelt out in the Merchant Shipping Act.
The authority said it has in the recent past received several complaints from seafarers working on board fishing vessels in Kenyan waters relating to seafarers employment agreement, payments, wages and general working conditions in board fishing vessels.
“Investigation have revealed the complaints arose from the seafarers having been recruited without going through the license requirements and placement agencies and not having been issued with written contracts to cover the period of their service onboard. This is in contravention of Merchant Shipping Act on the part of the ship owner as well as the seafarer,” KMA said in a recent public notice
Exploitation of the Kenya marine fish has become a major area of concern in the recent years due to its underutilization. Marine fishing is hindered by infrastructural limitations and inappropriate fishing craft and gear. Artisanal fishers mainly restrict their operations to the continental shelf because they are ill-equipped in terms of craft and equipment to fish in the deep sea.
The deep sea waters are left to Distant Water Fishing Nations (DWFN) who majorly fish Tuna species. Kenya lies within the rich tuna belt of the West Indian Ocean where 25% of the world’s tuna is caught.
In December 2017, President Kenyatta suspended licenses of foreign trawlers as part of efforts to grow the country’s blue economy through value addition. During the 54th commemoration of the country’s Independence, the president said that the ban on foreign vessels would help increase fish processed locally seven-fold to 18,000 tons per year. Kenya, the president announced, loses about 10 billion shillings ($97 million) a year to foreign boats fishing without permission.
Kenya’s effort to venture into deep sea fishing is not only limited due to physical infrastructure but the country’s workforce as well. The International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Fishing Vessel Personnel, 1995 (STCW-F 1995), entered into force on 29 September 2012 sets certification and minimum training requirements for crews of seagoing fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and above.
For maritime training institutes worldwide, International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has developed a series of model courses which provide suggested syllabi, course timetables and learning objectives to assist instructors develop training programmes to meet the STCW Convention standards for seafarers.
Although the players in the maritime industry were upbeat 10 years ago about the authorization that was received from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to train seafarers in Kenya, famously known as Whitelisting, the country has lacked sufficient tools to have fully qualified seafarers that can competitively work in foreign going vessels.
Thousands of seafarers, who had earned their pay in dollars, were rendered redundant following the introduction of stringent regulations by IMO. Introduction of the Standard of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping 1995 code locked out the Kenyan seafarers.
To get Kenya into IMO good books, the country had to review the Merchant Shipping Act- which ratified a number of international conventions, developed a maritime training curriculum and sought the IMO approval.
Although Kenya was given IMO clean bill of health, shortly after the new law, Bandari College lacked vessels to offer the required practical and exit training to fully equip the seafarers for international jobs.