enya Maritime Authority (KMA) has warned ship-owners against engaging seafarers without going through the licensed recruitment and placement procedures, as they risk being subjected to detention and fines.
This was announced by KMA Director General Mr Robert Njue on twitter after KMA spelt out a number of requirements that vessel owners recruiting Kenyan seafarers must adhere to in recruiting to protect the labour rights last month.
The authority said it has in the recent past received several complaints from seafarers working on board fishing vessels in Kenyan waters relating to seafarer’s 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.
The deep-sea waters in Kenya have been 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.
Although the players in the maritime industry were upbeat 10 years ago about the authorization that was received from the International Maritime Organization (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 an 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. But the college has already been upgraded to Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA) in order to position the country in the growth of the Blue Economy.