MARITIME LABOUR : KENYA
International shipping has long operated in an environment of global deregulation.
There are few restrictions on ships carrying cargo from one country to another. Shipping has produced its own extreme strain of deregulation, the flag of convenience system, which places a large part of the industry beyond the influence of government control.
Barriers remain, however, in many domestic shipping services. Most genuine flag states insist that, in line with UN rules, there must be a genuine link between the ship owner and the flag state.
There are therefore, restrictions on foreign owner ship and national laws, including labour laws, apply on board. In some countries foreign ships are banned from coastal trade (Cabotage).
One of these countries is the United States where the US Jones’ Act allows only US flagged ships whose crews enjoy US conditions to transport goods internally.
There is no proper agreements, safety and health measures, medical care at sea and social security for Kenyan mariners working aboard the local and foreign fishing or merchant vessels.
Owing to the culture of fear, inhuman conditions on fishing or merchant ships such as physical and mental abuse and even murder or mysterious disappearance of crew are under reported because Seafarers on Fishing or Merchant vessels are afraid to speak out.
They maintain a culture of fear because they know that if they complain, they will loose not only their present but possibly their future but jobs.
Between 1983 – 2003 67 fishers have lost their lives at Sea, while 121 were seriously injured and 37 suffered frost – bitten fingers.
Throughout the past two decades, Kenya has done a lot on port management reforms. But, she has overlooked the development of Maritime Labour.
Owing to lack of National Maritime fleet and proper Maritime labour policy, Kenya contributes just a fraction to the total of 1.2 million World Seafarers.
Lack of nautical institutions for the development of Seafarers and fishers.
None – implementation of the ILO/IMO conventions is also an obstacle to the development of Kenyan Seafarers.
It is very sad to note that Seafarers from Philippines, Indonesia, Poland and India countries that provides the largest number of sea-going maritime personnel have taken over jobs on Ocean-going vessels owned locally.
It gives great joy to note that last year Filipinos working on foreign-flag ships sent home US$ 1.4 million.
Out of 1.2million World Seafarers 225,122 are Filipinos. This includes hotel and catering staff on Cruise Ships. The number of Filipinos Seafarers employed on Merchant Ships is estimated at 100,000 – 120,000.
In this respect we think Kenya should be a Maritime Labour supplying country like Philippines. For Kenyan Seafarers are capable of working aboard Merchant Ships, Cruise Ships, Offshore oil rigs, Industrial Fishing boats, Floating Production Systems (FPS). There are 136 (FPS) Worldwide.
We also propose, that the government of Kenya should adopt the UK-Style tonnage tax scheme to support its shipping industry.
Shipping is an essential industry for Kenya, which relies on Maritime trade for more than 90% of its imports and exports.
Introduction of this scheme used by the UK, the Netherlands, and Belgium will help to make the country’s register more competitive.
We strongly believe that the tonnage tax proposal would form part of a major transport strategy which will revive the maritime sector by developing Kenyan-owned shipping companies and promoting the use of nationally registered vessels.
Despite it’s geographical position and a long time Seafaring tradition the country has not achieved its potential in International Shipping, mainly due to the lack of failure to set up appropriate legal institutional and administrative framework for the exploitation of the maritime zones.
The Merchant Shipping Act of 1967, is a derivative of the United Kingdom Shipping Act of 1894 which has since been amended severally while Kenyan Act has remained the same.
The Act is over 30 years old, outdated and does not cover the important international shipping and Maritime conventions to which Kenya is a party.
The inadequacy of the Kenya Merchant Shipping Act is further demonstrated by the inability of Kenya to meet the minimum requirements for the acceptance into the IMO ”white list” of nations, which have complied with the STCW’ 95 Convention. Currently there are 16 African Maritime States which have since joined the IMO “white list” as at June 30, 2003.
This includes, Ethiopia, Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, South Africa, Cote d’ Ivoire, Senegal, Ghana, Liberia, Tanzania and Nigeria. While in the North Africa there are Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.
This has forced many Kenyan Seafarers out of employment on foreign ocean-going merchant vessels except fishing vessels.
A study on Labour market we carried out in 2002 indicates that only 189 Kenyan Seamen worked about Merchant vessels while, 165 Kenyan fish workers work aboard local Italian and Korean owned fishing vessels, while 295 work on European Community (EC) vessels mostly Spanish fishing trawlers and long lines. And about 65 work on Korean long lines.
Kenya’s fishing fleet is comprised of 17 Italian and 3 Korean owned fishing trawlers and a Korean long-line.
All these vessels do not comply with ILO instruments and International Labour Standards and the EU fisheries agreement.
IUU – FISHING
It hurts to say that Kenyan Seafarers who work aboard local owned fishing vessels have come face to face with Sea robbery along Somalia territorial waters.
Some of them have been caught twice or thrice but they are not about to be scared into joblessness.
Although the Kenyan fishing trawlers owners hire militiamen to guard ships while they are fishing illegally within Somali territorial, the Somali gunmen manage to arrest a number of Kenyan fishing vessels demanding a ransom of not less than US$ 500,000.
As fishing activities in Somalia and Kenya are contrary to FAO and UNCLOS instruments, we ask the EU and the Intentional Community to boycott all fish products from Kenya in order to force the Kenyan Government to crack down on local fishing companies operating illegally in Somali and Kenyan waters.
RECOMMENDATION AND CONSLUSION
It is high time now, the government should :
1. Formulate and develop a national maritime policy which will provide guidelines on administration and regulation of the Maritime industry.
2. Address the legislative and institutional framework for maritime administration in Kenya.
3. Completely overhaul the Employment Act, Fisheries Act, Merchant Shipping Act and the Trade Union Act. This is because the Kenya Labour Laws are silent about Fishers and Seafarers’ welfare.
There is also an urgent need for the Kenyan government to address the following :
1. Domestication and implementation of the ILO and IMO Conventions aimed at the protection and development of Kenyan Seafarers and Fishers.
2. Observation of FAO and UNCLOS instrumentation in order to protect the marine life, the ecosystem and Food security in the Western Indian Ocean region.
3. Promotion and creation of Maritime Labour pool/Labour Exchange Centre at the Port of Mombasa.
4. Introduction of Carbotage Law in the country.
5. Promotion and implementation of Port State control.
6. Kenya government should come up with a fishing policy and food security policy.
7. Kenya government should work on the ILO – International Bill of rights so that Kenyan Seafarers and Fish Workers could have the International basic employment rights. Currently the ILO is in the process of developing an international bill of rights for Seafarers.
8. The government should develop policies to increase merchant navy officer training to ensure there are skills to support the long-term expansion of Kenyan Shipping Industry.
Also the local ship owners should switch their ships back to the national flag so that to boost the domestic register and create employment for Kenyans.
Currently there are 24 locally owned or managed Merchant Ships flying flags of convenience (FOC).
There is also a need for Parliamentary recognition of the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) for, it was appointed through Presidential decree.
Now that the ILO is also working on the proposed convention concerning work in the finishing sector we suggest that the Kenya government should chip-in and do something on this important work.
Although we are very much disappointed to learn that Kenya is not represented in this two ILO projects ; we express our thanks to the International Labour Organisation for their work on behalf of the World’s forgotten workers. Member state of the ILO, Ship owners and Seafarers’ representatives will meet at the ILO on 31st May, 2005 to discuss about the proposed convention concerning work in the fishing sector.
The proposed convention is a revised seven international standards adopted by the ILO specifically concerning the fishing sector, namely the hours of work (fishing) Convention, Minimum Age (Fishermen), Convention, Medical Examination (Fishermen) Convention, the Fishermen’s Articles of Agreement Convention, the Fishermen’s Competency Certificate’s Convention, the Accommodation of Crews (Fishermen) Convention, and the Vocational Training (Fishermen) recommendation to bring this instruments upto date and to reach a greater portion of the world’s fishers.
The objective of this proposed ILO Convention is to help ensure that fishers have decent conditions for work on board ; conditions of services ; accommodation and food ; health protection , medical care and social security.
This proposed ILO Convention will be adopted by the ILO on June this year and may be cited as the work in Fishing Convention 2005.
Andrew Mwangura Programs Co-ordinator Seafarer’s Assistance Program