Opinion | Why Kenya needs to prioritize maritime training

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Kenya needs to acquire a training ship like the Seychellois flagged training ship VIRGO II that cost Kshs 40 million. PHOTO/KPA

By Andrew Mwangura

Two years ago, Kenya kicked off plans to revive the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) that has the potential to contribute over 3 billion US dollars into the country’s economy annually.

The shipping line is expected to create an average of 3,000 job opportunities for youth in the first year, and thereafter progressively increase to 6,000 in five years.

The revival of the shipping line is expected to return Kenya to its historical place as a rich seafaring nation with highly respected seafarers. The shipping line has been dormant for decades.

Aside from the direct shipping business, Kenya National Shipping Line also offers agency services to special cargo or chartered vessels docking in Mombasa from anywhere in the world including the tramp vessel agency.

The company operates under slot charter system with Mediterranean Shipping Company MSC, also a strategic partner/shareholder but is not an agent of any shipping line; instead MSC is principal to various agents spread in greater parts of Europe and Northwest continent and also in East Africa.

KNSL operations          

The operations of the company are currently based in Europe and Northwest continent together with East Africa. These include ports of call such as Felixstowe, Barcelona, Antwerp, Hamburg, Bremen, Rotterdam, La Spezia, Trieste, Le Havre, Lisbon, Lexoies, together with Dar er salaam and Tanga in East Africa.

There is a wide and effective agency network in all these areas. At the headquarters of Kenya National Shipping Line based in Mombasa, control and effective communication is exercised with all the Agents in East Africa as well as those in Europe and Northwest continent.

To start with, the KNSL should handle bulk cargo such as clinker, titanium, coal, ore and oil products that are not complicated as containerized goods.

Oil and gas is in high demand within the region and it’s a sure way to get an entry in the way of bareboat charter.

The only way out is to acquire a training ship like the Seychellois flagged training ship VIRGO II or to bareboat charter an Oil, Bulk, Ore (OBO) carrier. The vessel cost Seychelles US dollars 375,145 or Kshs 40 million.

In a special program with local Maritime Training Institutes she can deliver Deck Cadets – Certificate of Competency as Officer of the Watch (STCW A-II/1). Applicable to foreign going and unlimited tonnage ships and Engineer Cadets – Certificate of Competency as Officer of the Watch (STCW A-III/1). Applicable to foreign going and unlimited horsepower ships.

The program can accommodate a maximum of 360 cadets per year, broken into four annual intakes of 90 cadets each completing a three-month program aboard the bulk carrier.

MSC role

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) Signed by MSC with the Transport and Infrastructure Ministry at State House Nairobi on August 16, 2018 indicates that; MSC will increase the competitive prowess of the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) to compete with some of the best shipping lines in the maritime industry. This is bound to increase job opportunities for the coastal youths and members of the public at large.

Its other benefits include revenues for the government and enhanced economic opportunities of the local members of communities and adjacent county governments. Also Kenya would benefit from world class training opportunities for youth in Seafaring at Bandari Maritime Academy and enable youth access employment in all GLOBAL ocean going vessels.

The revival of Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) is expected to create an average of 3,000 job opportunities in the first year. PHOTO/COURTESTY

Another benefit is that of sea time opportunities for trainees in ocean going vessels which is mandatory for seafaring careers. It will provide decent pay to Coastal Youths – about 2,000 recruits per year for the next five years from different shipping lines; enable Port of Mombasa to grow into a Transshipment hub to increase Volumes of cargo and tourists.

Institutions offering relevant training for marine deck officers and engine room officers include Bandari Maritime Academy, Technical University of Mombasa and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture & Technology.

The three institutions have currently enrolled over 200 students who are undertaking maritime related courses.

Bandari Maritime Academy is expected to partner with the Kenya Utalii College, the Kisumu Maritime Centre and also establish twinning arrangements with the MSC Training Academy based in Naples, Italy.

It is feared that a few cadets recruited recently by BAHARI Shipping Line, CMA CGM, MSC and the Danish shipping company Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab (DFDS) will not make it to Master Mariners or Chief Engineers for, it takes 6-7 years and they cannot have that privilege given that we do not have a National Merchant fleet, they can only make it if Kenya had its own merchant vessels.

The cadets are unlikely to complete their training nor serve as Masters or Chief Engineers.

The way forward is for the KNSL to acquire and operate its merchant fleets to give the deck cadets the apprenticeship of the mandatory sea time training.

Cadet apprentice

Deck Cadet is an apprentice who has to learn the basic duties of a deck officer onboard a ship. She/he has to complete the prescribed sea-time in order to take the exams of 2nd mate.

Even though the cadet is onboard they still have to complete their studies. They have to undergo various forms of training, watch-keeping with chief officer, at port with second mate and do normal deck jobs with the Bossun.

In the UK it is possible to train as a Deck Cadet after a Foundation Degree program or High Nautical Diploma.

For the engine cadets, they are placed onboard for the purpose of training to become engineer officers from where they learn the rudiments of their shipboard functions through an on-the-job training scheme and by collective support of their shipmates and superiors, particularly the senior engineer officers.

Revenue hitch

Meanwhile, Maritime Education and Training faces collapse at the BMA if the government fails to appoint the right person to uplift the collage standards.

The collage needs to create money through courses, to act as a research center, and to come up with a maritime work methodology which changes every day due to technological changes. It also needs to raise revenue by hiring out some of its facilities like swimming pool, hostels, amphitheater, and yard.

These challenges have been worsening for some time now when one considers that the full-mission navigational bridge simulator and Full-mission engine and hybrid ships Simulators broke down beyond repair three years ago. BMA lacks steady income generating activity and its main revenue is Kshs 200 million that KPA provides for staff salaries and wages.

Andrew Mwangura is a Public Intellectual at the Nautical Advisory Services.

 

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