By PATRICK BEJA
As leading seafaring nations like the Philippines enjoy a boom in foreign exchange earnings from sailors who dominate foreign-ocean going vessels, Kenyan sailors are a dejected lot.
The Philippines and other top seafaring countries are enjoying a vibrant Collective Bargaining Agreement ( CBA) and appropriate training in academies for sailors as Kenyan counterparts slumber owing to neglect of the sector.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel after more than 200 seafarers and several leaders met last Saturday to discuss ways of reviving seafaring, which earned many Kenyans dollars in the 1970s.
The meeting – under the banner of Seafarers Solidarity Consultive Forum (SSCF) – took place as Kenya seeks to revive the Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK) and make it a strong body to negotiate a CBA with ship owners.
At the moment, lack of a CBA makes the few Kenyan sailors earn as low as Sh10, 000 a month.
The Government, through the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), has encouraged seafarers to revive their union as the country prepares a strong tripartite comprising state, employers and union so as to ratify the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) introduced by the International Labour Organisation.
Kenyans have long aspired to work on board foreign ships because of the huge perks paid to workers.
The highest paid ship officer (master) takes home a minimum of $6200 (Sh527, 000) and a maximum of $14000 (Sh1.1 million) a month. The chief engineer, the second in rank, is paid a minimum of $6100 (Sh518,000) and a maximum of $10,000 (Sh850,000) a month.
A wiper or messman, who is the lowest paid on the ship, earns a minimum of $1100 (Sh93, 000) and a maximum of $1200 (Sh102,000) a month.
Betty Makena, the Mombasa inspector of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), told the sailors that their counterparts in the Philippines have put their house in order and were reaping big due to a strong CBA.