Uhuru's bid to salvage KNSL praised by maritime stakeholders

[Photo: Courtesy]
Stakeholders in the maritime industry have welcomed President Uhuru Kenyatta's decision to reject the amendments by parliament to the Kenya Merchant Shipping Act 2019.

The President returned the bill to parliament with memorandum asking Mps to amend a certain section that will allow the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) to run the second container terminal at the port of Mombasa.

The maritime players said the President's move offered a sigh of relief to them as the Merchant Shipping (Miscellenous amendment) Bill 2019 could now be returned to Parliament and looked afresh so as to support an arrangement for KNSL to take over running of the Sh27 billion terminal.

The MPs had rejected the the Bill demanding that the terminal be operated by a 100 percent Kenyan owned entity.

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Mediterrenean Shipping Company (MSC), an Italian firm, owns 47 percent shares in KNSL while Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) has 53 percent stake.

The Government has signed agreements where MSC will support training and employment of thousands of Kenyan youths as seafarers. MSC has so far employed 70 Kenyan youths on its cruise ships and plans are afoot to recruit others.

The deal with MSC is for the firm to employ 2000 seafarers each year for the next five years.

The Head of State refused to assent to Statute Law (Miscellenous Amendments) Billthat could have derailed the earlier arrangement to revitalize KNSL and have youths employed by MSC.

Last Thursday,President Uhuru sent back to parliament a memorandum asking legislators to reverse their earlier decision on grounds that their move will disadvantage  the KNSL whose majority shareholding is Government through KPA.

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The President expressed his reservations on provisions relating to the Merchant Shipping Act 2009 as passed by the House.

''He (President) has reservations on the 'whole ownership ' , said  speaker of National Assembly Justin Muturi in an address to MPs.

Coast MPs led by Mvita legislator, Mr Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir shot down the Bill.

Yesterday, Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK) chairman ,Mr Daudi Haji, said that the president's move renewed the hope continued employment of seafarers by MSC.

 ''We were starring at massive missed opportunities for  ready jobs that are equally well paying for our youths who had earlier on been recruited to work aboard MSC cruise ships in Europe, the Americas and Gulf region,'' Haji flanked by General Secretary, Mr Steve Owaki said.

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He said that it was unfortunate that local Coast legislators have been against the partnership between KNSL and MSC ignoring the fact that their own people were getting employment.

Former SUK general secretary Mr Matano Chengo appealed to the Head of State, Deputy President Dr William Ruto and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to help marshall legislators to support the bill when it is brought before the August House.

Matano noted that only 20 MPs who were present in Parliament upset the Government Bill because the top leaders did not whip their members to support it.

"I thank the President for the latest move but urge him, his deputy and the former prime minister to mobilise MPs to pass the Bill this time round," Matano said.

Coordinator of the Seafarers Assistance Programme (SAP), Mr Andrew Mwangura said the President's move has offered an opportunities for Coast MPs and residents to consult and ensure the Bill is passed when it comes up for debate in Parliament.

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"When the Bill was shot down it became very clear that some Coast MPs and many residents did not understand its consequences. Some MPs kept on asking for seafaring jobs while what they had done in Parliament undermined the chances of such opportunities," Mwangura argued.

Chairman of the Dock Workers Union (DWU) Mr Mohamed Sheria said they had initiated consultation with Government to get a clear assurance that the take over by KNSL will not lead to loss of jobs.

"I have always supported the take over of the second container terminal by KNSL because the port belongs to Government and all Kenyans. We only want an assurance that our jobs as KPA workers are not lost. We should negotiate as a union to ensure our jobs are intact," Sheria said.

He claimed that direct rejection of the Government plan by DWU general Simon Sang might not succeed since Government has the numbers in Parliament.

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President Uhuru KenyattaKenya National Shipping Line