Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has allocated Sh200 million to train hundreds of students undertaking maritime courses at Bandari Maritime Academy and other accredited institutions.
KMA Chairman Geoffrey Mwongo said that the funds have been allocated to benefit students who were unable to pay fees and attract more qualified ones to undertake key courses required for the country to tap into the existing opportunities found within the blue economy.
He said last year, Sh50 million were allocated to the bursary kitty which supported beneficiaries continuing with their studies without any hitches.
“Last year, we set aside Sh50 million. This year, we look forward to setting aside Sh200 million to ensure that we don’t deny opportunities to those students who can’t afford to pay for their courses so long as they are in Bandari College or any other institution accredited by KMA,” he said.
He was speaking during the official launch of the Association of Maritime Practitioners of Kenya (AMP-K) at PrideInn Paradise Hotel Mombasa.
The National Blue Economy Committee Chairman General (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe who spoke during the event said Kenya should work towards owning its own ships in order to attract young talent and create job opportunities for young cadets in the maritime industry.
Mwathethe challenged both private and the public sectors to work towards realization of this dream observing that there were several ship building companies in the country, including African Marine and General Engineering and Southern Engineering Company, but very few shipping lines.
The Lamu Shipping Company is one of the local companies that has come up and is giving employment and training opportunities to locals.
The company has been operating between the Ports of Zanzibar and Lamu, bringing in some of the transshipment cargo from Tanzania to Kenya.
Mwathethe said there was a need for more ships for Kenya and challenged the newly formed association to also work towards owning its vessels to address the challenges in the maritime sector.
He added that the maritime sector features prominently in Kenya’s long term development blueprint (Vision 2030) of which the third MDG provided specific government policies, programmes and projects for the maritime and other related industries.
“The crucial role of human capital cannot be over-emphasized. Qualified and competent maritime professionals are a key driver to a collective national ambition to build a thriving blue economy that will be at par with other thriving maritime nations,” said Mwathethe.
He hailed the formation of the association saying that it would play an important role in Kenya’s maritime industry.
He stated that the association would play a critical role in the production of qualified professionals in the maritime industry in support of marine education and training institutions in compliance with national and international standards.
“The association will also ensure that maritime professionals uphold national and international professional ethics and best practice in the industry. This will establish Kenya maritime professionals as tradable brands in the global maritime market hence help create a market for Kenyans abroad while attracting maritime investment here at home,” he said.
He further called upon members of the association to remain loyal to the organization to achieve their objectives and called on all industry players to work together.
The Principal Secretary in the State Department for Shipping and Maritime Nancy Karigithu, who gave her keynote address from the United Kingdom, said that there was need to improve on capacity building within the maritime sector.
She stated that the government identified the blue economy as one of the key pillars in the country where capacity building was identified as a critical component and an enabler of the blue economy development.
The PS added that the Bandari Maritime Academy had been identified as a national centre of excellence for skills development in the blue economy.
“We expect the institution to produce out more than 10,000 world class seafarers annually among other skills. Plans are underway to improve the maritime sector in line with the international obligations,” said Karigithu.
She added that the government had adopted a number of instruments of IMO in order to make it easier for those seeking jobs in the industry and also make Kenya more competitive as a labour supplying nation.
“We have made amendments to the labour maritime convention which is very key in giving Kenya a level playing field in the global environment of work. We are also developing the maritime wages council expected to be rolled out soon to make Kenya as competitive as possible,” she said.
Also present during the launch was Captain Musa Hamza, Chairman of Tanzania Shipping Agency Corporation who hailed the formation of the association stating that the region faced common maritime challenges.
He stated that the idea of the blue economy was articulated by the African Union that called on the people in the Maritime Industry to come together.
“The spirit of regionalization cannot be overemphasized. I assure you that the Maritime Industry is ready to work with Kenya,” said Hamza.