Dozens of Kenyan seafaring students are set to start internships with two global shipping lines - the Swiss Shipping Line and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC).
The shipping companies have enlisted the services of 48 Kenyan seafaring cadets for the seatime service of 12 months.
Seatime is a mandatory requirement for marine engineering and nautical science cadets who seek to qualify as marine engineering or navigating officers.
The internships have come through an arrangement between the shippers and the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL).
The training pact is the latest of the goodies that shipping lines are handing out to Kenya as they seek more favourable trading terms.
A few months ago, Danish shipping company Maersk announced its intention to redesign its service on the Mombasa-North Europe route.
The plan dubbed “ME7 service” is hinged on creating a single transshipment route from Mombasa and Lamu ports to the port cities of Europe.
Maersk ships are only expected to take rests on the hubs of Colombo and Salalah in Oman.
The initiative is meant to ensure cargo flows smoothly without getting affected by delays in case of congestion.
Maersk proposed the expensive idea to the Kenyan government as an enticement to have an upper hand in business at the new Port of Lamu, which has already introduced transhipment services.
French shipper CMA CGM is also another global player that is dangling the training opportunities carrot to State agencies to earn a favourable working relationship with Kenya.
MSC has been the most aggressive. The shipping line has since 2018 employed at least 1,000 Kenyan seafarers to work aboard its fleet including cruise ships and cargo vessels that ply the world’s oceans.
Some of the Kenyans employed aboard cruise ships work as engineers, guest relations officers, cooks, waiters, bartenders, provision assistant, butlers kitchen utility staff, animators and ship hotel supervisors. Those employed aboard cargo vessels work as deck hands and third engineers.
Samson Mwathethe, chairman of the Oceans and Blue Economy Office, said the government has prioritised seafaring development as it acknowledges its potential in addressing current social challenges, especially youth unemployment.
He said in an interview with Shipping and Logistics that productive partnerships with global shipping lines will grow the country’s blue economy.
He said the partnership with MSC specifically will not only assist Kenya in its efforts to develop seafarers, but also spur growth in other key sectors of the economy such as maritime transport logistics.
Currently, the institutions offering relevant training for marine deck officers and engine room officers include Bandari Maritime Academy, Technical University of Mombasa and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Placement of trainees, however, has continued to be a challenge.
Gen (Rtd) Mwathathe said partnerships with the liners will be a boost for the presidential directive on the development of 4,000 Kenyan seafarers annually.
The government is developing a programme that will ensure Kenya is able to develop disciplined, highly qualified and well skilled seafarers who meet international standard needs.
Shipping and Maritime Affairs Principal Secretary Nancy Karigithu said partnerships with global firms is the way to go.
“We are assured of many training opportunities on board ships owned by global firms. MSC has gone out of its way to ensure our partnership works and our efforts to train are well supported,” she said.
Dr Karigithu asked the trainees to maintain a high level of discipline during their time aboard the vessels they have been deployed to train on.
She said KNSL had enabled an earlier batch of 15 cadets to take up seatime training aboard vessels owned by Saudi Arabian national shipping line Al Bahr, majority of whom have now been employed by other shipping lines.
Bandari Maritime Academy Acting Director Peter Muraya also lauded the partnerships with the shipping lines:
“We do not take for granted government efforts that have seen us enter into very strong partnerships with other key maritime service providers as we seek to boost efficiency,” he said.