This week, Kenya joins the rest of the world to mark World Maritime day to commemorate the contribution of shipping and seafarers to global economic development.
The celebrations could not have come at a better time when the world is slowly winning the war against COVID 19 pandemic.
This has been ably demonstrated by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim, in his address to the world to commemorate the World Maritime Day. Lim’s clarion call on "voyage together", that rallies member States, NGOS, and multiple maritime stakeholders to work hand in hand, is almost bearing fruits here in Kenya. The Covid 19 pandemic though seen as a dark cloud in the maritime sector, we can equally agree that it came along with its silver lining. Due to the restrictions in travel during the pandemic period, the silver lining is slowly emerging to be the rapid adoption of digitization of shipping operations. This makes Lim’s dream on the willingness of member states to work together in supporting shipping, seafarers, and the maritime sector to fulfil their responsibilities a reality.
Back at home, the Voyage together dream can only be realized with the implementation of the Maritime Single Window System. The system is at an advanced stage and is envisaged to be rolled out for operations in the course of this year. The system is a mandatory requirement for member states to introduce electronic information exchange between ships and ports, which came into effect from 8 April 2019. This is aimed at making cross-border trade simpler and the logistics chain more efficient, to facilitate global sea trade.
The requirement, under International Maritime Convention’s (IMO’s) Convention on Facilitation of International Maritime Traffic (FAL Convention), is part of a package of amendments under the revised Annex to the FAL Convention, adopted in 2016.
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The implementation of the software will mark a significant move in the maritime industry and ports towards a digital maritime world, reducing the administrative burden and increasing the efficiency of maritime trade and transport.
The Covid 19 pandemic has exposed us to scenarios that have proved that indeed digitization of port operations is critical. This development resonates well with this year’s theme “Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet”. The theme also aims at reinforcing the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and showcase what IMO Members are striving to achieve. These goals are as relevant as ever, and shipping is essential for sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda will only be realized with a sustainable transport sector supporting world trade and facilitating the global economy. Therefore, the implementation of the software comes at a time when the world is inching to achieve these milestones.
Apart from digitizing its operations, it is also critical that shipping continues to make its contribution to the global economy without upsetting nature’s delicate balance. Kenya relies heavily on tourism and this begs the need to ensure that shipping operations do not necessarily interfere with the marine ecosystem. The Maritime stakeholders need to partner with each other and agencies championing this cause such as the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), Kenya Maritime Authority should rally together to conserve marine life.
In particular, KMA oversees the implementation of the IMO marine environment protection convections and other national and regional instruments relating to the prevention of pollution in Kenyan navigable waters by waterborne transport activities.
KMA has since developed documents on national marine spills contingency plan, oil dispersant use policy, among others to ensure pollution at sea is checked. According to Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, pollution and its destructive effects on marine resources such as coral reefs, mangroves, fish, humpback whale, sea turtles, seaweed, seagrass, to mention but a few, is today a major concern.
IMO has developed a regulatory framework that takes shipping on a journey of transformation towards this sustainable future. Some of the IMO’s actions meant to tackle this issue include decarbonization of international shipping and reduction of sulphur in ships’ fuel oil. This is aimed at maintaining a robust response system to meet threats to safety and security at sea, and protect the marine environment.
The cause however should not be left to the above mentioned stakeholders alone. If we are to live true to Lim’s vision of “Voyage together” then all players including the Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern & Southern Africa (WOMESA), Mission to Seafarers, Kenya National Shipping Line, African marine and general engineering, Seafarers Union of Kenya amongst many others.
Not forgetting the technology support organizations such as KenTrade, Maritime Technology Co-operation Centre (MTCC)-Africa) and the Mombasa & Northern Corridor Port Community Charter.
Together we can make shipping sustainable, resulting to a sustainable planet.
The writer is an expert in shipping