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Kenya’s first survey ship to hit high seas in two weeks

FINANCIAL STANDARD
By Philip Mwakio | November 4th 2014
By Philip Mwakio | November 4th 2014
FINANCIAL STANDARD

Kenya’s first permanent oceanographic survey ship, RV Mtafiti, enters the offshore waters of the Indian Ocean’s East African coast mid this month to start research work.

In a statement to Business Beat, the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) said the vessel, which was a donation from the Belgian government, would be manned by officers from the Kenya Navy for the next three years.

RV Mtafiti, formerly Zeeleeuw (Sea Lion), underwent refitting and a technical overhaul before being handed over to Kenya.

Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Principal Secretary Micheni Ntiba said the donation of the vessel, worth Sh3.5 billion, was part of a collaboration between Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and KMFRI.

“In October 2012, the two institutions signed a formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) for bilateral collaboration in the field of marine sciences,’’ he said.

Vast resources

VLIZ will help in all scientific operations, such as providing and placing scientific instruments on board the ship, and training IT staff, scientific assistants and students.

Former KMFRI Director Johnson Kazungu said with the vessel, scientists would be able to study and carry out fish stocks assessments, research on ocean and sea currents to determine levels of plankton (food for fish), and sample waters to find out areas with rich marine life.

Dr Kazungu added that the vessel could also be used to carry out bio-prospecting work that can be used to assess the potential for an oil find, as well as spot pollution in underwater oil and gas drilling.

The 36-year-old, 56-metre-long vessel had been used extensively for sea research for 13 years.

Kenya has a sea line with vast resources, but these have never been scientifically exploited.

“With this kind of vessel, our scientists will comb the deep waters of the ocean to conduct research that will be very vital in the economic wellbeing of our nation,” Prof Ntiba said.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, during the commissioning of the vessel in January, said RV Mtafiti would go a long way in improving the country’s capacity to safeguard its marine resources against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

He said lack of an offshore research vessel for oceanographic study and stock assessment had been a major obstacle to the management of marine stocks.

The country’s marine fisheries contribute only five per cent of the 174,000 tonnes of local fish produced, despite the waters off the Coast being a large, rich fishing area.

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