The government plans to work with established international shipping companies as well as all players in the maritime industry to create at least 40,000 jobs by 2025, a State official has said.
Speaking during a tour of Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) headquarters in Mombasa Principal Secretary for Shipping and Maritime Affairs Shadrack Mwadime said the government will ensure all problems that have gripped the shipping industry, curtailing its ability to create jobs, are dealt with.
Part of the plan, according to Mr Mwandime, is to work with shipping lines such as Mediterranean Shipping, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd among others to create jobs, especially for seafarers.
‘’We have a duty to do. We are committed to ensuring that our jobless youth acquire the necessary skills that will enable them to get jobs on ocean-going vessels. Seafaring is the next frontier where these jobs can be found,’’ said Mwadime.
He added that while the government was eager to foster closer working relations with all players in the maritime sector and respective county governments, private sector investment was needed to open up the immense potential in the Blue Economy.
‘’Going forward, I shall aggressively pick from where the previous government left and engage shipping companies which operate both locally and abroad with a view to finding more job opportunities that exist with the ultimate aim of giving jobless youth opportunities to work and earn a decent living,’’ he said. Mwandime said his department plans to bring all seafarers together and listen to their problems, given the many complaints he has received from individual cadres in that line of work.
Seafarers have decried low pay and poor working conditions; some being abandoned by vessels in foreign ports.
“The government has no business taking sides when there is a labour tussle between seafarers and shipping companies. All we want is to find a solution to industry problems,” he said. Mwadime who also visited the Kenya National Shipping Lines (KNSL) Bandari Maritime Academy, said it is sad that KNSL which has been in existence for more than three decades lacks a single ship.
On training capabilities, the CS said the government shall ensure Kenyan seafarers being prepared for the international job markets are people who are highly trained, especially through the Bandari Maritime
‘’We shall equip our maritime institutions well so that they can produce enough well-rounded cadres ready to take up jobs on ships,’’ he said.
He noted that the government was keen to ensure partnerships with county governments to come up with additional resources to fund seafaring ventures in their respective areas of jurisdictions for wealth and job creation.
Mwadime said with all systems in place, Kenya shall easily reap from benefits of being a lead destination in the continent where seafaring labour is most sought.
Mr Omingo said KMA entered into a partnership with Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) through the KCB Foundation and set up a Sh160 million kitty that is to be used to offer loans to seafarers who have been recruited by international cruise lines.
‘’A fresh recruit will require at least Sh150,000 to undergo basic safety training, a medical check, acquire passport and or visa before he or she travels to join a ship,” Omingo said.
“Many are finding it difficult due to the prevailing harsh economic times. KCB Foundation come to offer help in form of loans and we are all set to ensure that the recruits get these loans to help them process their documents,’’ Omingo said
He stressed that already, some applicants have already benefited from the loans and that they are working to fine-tune the loan process so that it becomes less cumbersome.
‘’The response from applicants has been overwhelming. We are burning the midnight candle to ensure that all those that are illegible for loans get them and proceed with the process,’’ Omingo added.
Currently, Kenyan seafarers are being absorbed to work aboard leading cruise liners like the MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, Apollo Group, Vikings, Carnival Cruises, Seabourne Cruise and Princess Cruises among many others.
Omingo said that the process to register local manning agents is ongoing with the latest one which will be recruiting for Appollo Group nearing completion.
Mwaguya said that he was optimistic the pilot scheme by KCB Foundation will spur more lending institutions to follow suit.
‘’The more the merrier,’’ Mwaguya said.
At the same time, Mwaguya announced that they were in the process of moving to their new ultra-modern headquarters building which comes with several office blocks including a helipad by May next year.