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Kenya commissions RV Mtafiti, first high seas survey ship

By Philip Mwakio | January 27th 2014
The ‘RV Mtafiti’ ship to be used by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute that is to be commissioned Monday. The ship docked at the Kenyan coast line in November last year. [Photo: Gideon Maundu/Standard]

By Philip Mwakio

Mombasa, Kenya: Kenya marks a milestone today in the field of oceanographic survey when it commissions its first survey ship christened RV Mtafiti at the East Coast of Africa.

Officials from Belgium, which donated the vessel that will also be used to patrol Kenya’s exclusive economic zone and prospect for petroleum and gas, arrived in Mombasa over the weekend and were received by Governor Hassan Joho.

President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to officiate the commissioning ceremony of the former RV Zeeleeuw (Sea Lion), a donation of the Flemish Government, Belgium.

The vessel handed over to the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) last May underwent refitting and a technical overhaul and sailed off for Kenya escorted by Kenya Navy officers.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Micheni Nthiba said the donation of the vessel worth Sh3.5 billion fell within collaboration between Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) and KMFRI.

“In October 2012, the two institutions had signed a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for bilateral collaboration in the field of marine sciences. Within the frame of the MoU, VLIZ will coordinate and facilitate the translocation of the vessel, cooperate in all scientific operations such as providing and placing scientific instruments on board of the ship, train IT staff, scientific assistants and students,” said Prof Nthiba.

An elated KMFRI Director Johnson Kazungu said the institute’s scientists will now be able to study and carry out fish stocks assessments, research on ocean and sea currents to determine levels of planktons (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 involves looking at signatures to see whether there has been oil and potential pollution in underwater oil and gas drilling.

The 36-year-old vessel had been used extensively for sea research for 13 years and will continue to be used to serve marine research under KMFRI.

“Kenya is blessed to have a sea line with vast resources, which for a very long time 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 economic wellbeing of our nation,” Nthiba said.

Prof Nthiba further explained the commissioning of the vessel comes at a time when Kenya has applied for additional expansion of its Exclusive Economic Zones of the continental shelf beyond the 200 nautical miles to reach 350 nautical miles.

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