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Kenyan seafarers ask State to harmonise maritime labour laws to protect their rights

Cruise ship World Odyssey on its way to the port of Mombasa. PHOTO/MAARUF MOHAMED.

By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN

newshub@eyewitness.africa

The Kenya Seafarers’ Consultative Forum, a lobby group for seamen, has asked the government to harmonise maritime labour laws in order to protect their rights.

Conveners of the Seafarers’ Consultative Forum Alamin Ahmed and Andrew Mwangura, said there was an urgent need to harmonise the maritime labour laws and the Kenya Merchant Shipping Act in order to protect seafarers’ rights.

“Let’s build a strong Seafarers’ union to lobby for establishment of  Merchant Navy Training Board, Cabotage Law, International Open Ship Registry,  Marine Accidents Investigation Board, Revival of Kenya National Shipping Line and review of the MoUs between the government of Kenya and international shipping lines,” Mr Ahmed said.

The Seafarers’ Consultative Forum conveners who were speaking during a seafarers stakeholders meeting at Koblenz Hall, in Mombasa  also called for the total overhaul of Bandari Maritime Academy and Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute and review Legal Notice Number 233 0f 2018 on establishment of Bandari Maritime Academy.

“We also want the establishment of the Merchant Navy Benevolent Fund for victims of sea piracy and maritime casualties, establishment of maritime cluster fund and the acquisition of a training ship for local maritime education and training institutions,” Mr Mwangura said.

They also asked the government to establish a bunkering hub at the Lamu Port, establish close-shop system for replacement and recruitment of seafarers aboard all ocean-going vessels based in Mombasa and set up bare-boat chartering of OBO Carriers by the KNSL.

They said the problems facing seafarers was a result of Kenya Seafarers Union of Kenya facing a leadership crisis due to power struggle and lack of substantive leaders to oversee its operations. They added that Seafarers Union of Kenya has been grappling with serious leadership challenges that have brought the organization to its knees.

The container terminal at the port of Mombasa. PHOTO/MAARUF MOHAMED.

“The executive board of the union has the overall responsibility for the direction, organization, administration and programs of the union, their absence, therefore, has negative impact on operations of the labor movement,” they noted.

They added that the Government of Kenya has been entering into recruitment deals of seafarers and seaboard training deals of sea cadets without involving the union as well as the seafarers’ wages council as social partners in contravention of international maritime labor standards and the ILO instruments.

“In a span of five years the government has entered into Seafarers  replacement and recruitment deals with MSC Shipping Company, Kenya National Shipping Line, CMA CGM Container Shipping Line, BAHRI Shipping Company, Celebrity Cruise Ships, Royal Caribbean Cruises and the Danish shipping company DetForenedeDampskibs-Selskab (DFDS),” Mr Ahmed said.

They asked the government to involve the Seafarers Union of Kenya and the Seafarers Wages Council and all issues involving seafarers’ rights and welfare noting that its interference was in contravention of International Maritime Labor Standards and the ILO instruments.

“The Government of Kenya has also entered into maritime education and training programs with the KCB, HELB and Youth Enterprise Development Fund without involving Seafarers Union of Kenya and the Seafarers Wages Council. Plans are underway to also rope-in Equity Bank in Maritime Education and Training Program,” they added.

Mr Ahmed said Under section 37(1) of the Labor Relations Act, 2007 all property whether movable or immovable of a registered trade union is vested in its trustees for the use and benefit of the trade union and its members adding that according to the Register of Officials held at the Office the Registrar of Trade Unions;  . John Hussein Zappa, Matari Mwinyi and AtieSwaleh Ramadhan  are the recognized Trustees of the Union.

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