Rise in boat accidents push State to train seamen

The government has embarked on a countrywide training for coxswains to enhance safe operation of vessels.

The training has targeted boat operators, the fisherfolk, Beach Management Units (BMUs) and coxswains in the Indian Ocean and inland waters.

So far, 3600 coxswains have been trained at the coast under the initiative and about 2000 boat operators are targeted for the programme in Lamu County which is a hub of maritime activities in the region.

Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has teamed up with other state agencies including Kenya Coast Guard Service, Bandari Maritime Academy and county governments to roll out the coxswains training programme.

The training comes at a time when there has been a number of accidents among boat operators in the country.

Earlier this month, four fishermen were seriously injured at Ras Kiamboni on the Kenya Somalia border when a fishing boat christened FV Paradise caught fire after a petrol jerrycan exploded.

The fishermen were preparing a meal when the incident occurred causing concern on maritime safety.

County Director for Disaster Management and Peace Building Shee Kupi Shee, said that FV Paradise’s skipper was rushed to Coast General Teaching and Referral Hospital in Mombasa as he sustained serious burns.

The county official said that a leaking jerrican full of petrol ignited the fire aboard the fibre boat which was laden with catch.

“The crew were preparing a meal when leaking petrol came into contact with kitchen fire. The explosion engulfed the vessel which was at anchor,” Mr Shee had said.

Last month, three fishermen who went missing for 22 days after their boat was swept to the high seas by waves were rescued by a Chinese fishing ship.

However, the fourth fisherman could not be found. The four were on a fishing expedition.

Several cases of capsizing vessels have also been reported on Lake Victoria forcing government to roll out the coxswain training programme in the country.

The training covers aspects of deck and engine operation, maritime safety procedures, practical skills in operation of vessels and technical expertise on training and examinations.

The countrywide training is in line with a presidential directive to boost safety in Kenyan waters.

It has been noted that there are many boat operators with the necessary basic experience to operate vessels but lack the required certification.

In addition, there are many coxswains across the country who still own invalid certificates.

The training programme has been ongoing in Lamu County since January 17, this year.

The month-long training is being conducted at Mkokoni, Ndau, Kizingitini, Faza, Pate, Lamu island, Matondoni and Mokowe.

“We encourage and make a call to all coxswains to come out in large numbers for this exercise. This exercise is mainly for those who have skills and prior knowledge to operate boats but do not have a valid certificate,” said KMA Director General Martin Dzombo Munga, during the start of the programme in Lamu County.

The training will enable the operators attain the required certification to operate vessels safely and comply with maritime regulations in the country.