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Seafarers now create new lobby amid hardships

SHIPPING & LOGISTICS
By Philip Mwakio | November 18th 2021

Kenya Maritime Authority assistant registrar of seafarers, Josphine Ntria meets M.v Jilan crew at Mombasa Port. [Omondi Onyango,Stamndard]

Poor wages, shaky contracts, getting abandoned at sea, are among the many problems seafarers face in the modern shipping industry.

These sailors, unsung heroes who keep the cogs of global trade oiled and globalisation humming, are also forced to spend long periods away from their families while contending with long working hours, poor diet and the threat of pirates at sea.

After suffering for long under the yoke of all these troubles, this cadre of workers has come together and formed an umbrella body that will fight for better working conditions for its members.

The Association of Maritime Practitioners-Kenya (AMPK) was unveiled last week in Mombasa. It will be a professional body that will represent not only seafarers but other workers in the maritime sector.

Blue Economy National Steering Committee Head Gen (Rtd) Samsom Mwathethe said the association, with qualified officers, will boost Kenya’s rankings in the global maritime sector.

“It is standard procedure to have professional bodies representing various labour cadre,” Mwathethe said.

“For this association to discharge its duties effectively, we shall moot maritime policies that will put Kenya at par with some of the best maritime nations like Philippines, Singapore, Nigeria, United Kingdom and Ghana.”

Association officials include Mwathethe, a senior marine pilot at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Suleiman Bakari, vice president for Nautical Oliver Maina, KPA principal marine engineer Charles Iregi and head of maritime education at the Technical University of Mombasa Talib Mohamed.

Others are Dorothy Mose (treasurer and maritime officer at KMA) and Amina Mwaurinda (organising secretary and a vessel traffic service officer at KPA).

Mwathethe acknowledged the lack of sea-time training for marine cadets in Kenya and said it can be tackled once Kenyans start investing in the sector and owning vessels.

“We remain confident that once we get our Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) up and running we shall conclusively address the problem of sea time exposure.”

Bakari said the association will also advance the interests of merchant navy officers and affiliated maritime practitioners in Kenya.

“This is to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas on pertinent matters within the maritime industry,” he said.

Bakari noted that as a professional association, membership is acquired through proven qualifications and experience in the industry.

“The defining qualification for the merchant navy officer is a Certificate of Competency (CoC),” he said.

“The technical committees ensure professional opinion is followed and advise the industry’s decision-makers.”

He reminded AMPK of its key role in ensuring ethics are upheld to help the maritime industry prosper and also ensure that more jobs are created and investment opportunities in the sector increased.

He further challenged maritime organisations and agencies involved to embrace a close working relationship for the sector to develop.

Principal Secretary for Shipping and Maritime Affairs Nancy Karigithu said Africa’s blue economy cuts across various sectors of the economy like fisheries, aquaculture, ship-building and repairs, sea bed mining, and thus requires a competent pool of professionals to offer services.

“We require competent officers to pull through the blue economy national pursuits to develop our national maritime sector,” she said.

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