The Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK) has commended the support the government is giving towards the revival of seafaring in the country.
Speaking in Mombasa, SUK General Secretary, Mr Steve Owaki said that it is under the leadership of President Uhuru Kenyatta that they have seen vigorous efforts in tapping into the potential that exists in the maritime sector and to a large extent the Blue Economy where Kenyans are getting jobs.
” We are happy that at least for now the Kenyan seafarer with valid documents is able to get job aboard seagoing vessels either in cargo, oil tanker, fishing or cruise ships. This has been a long cherished dream for many who have stayed out of jobs for long,” Owaki said.
He said that the existing agreement between the government and the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) has led to over 500 Kenyan youth to be employed aboard MSC Cruise ships that prior to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus were doing rounds across the global oceans.
” From feedback we have received, the Kenyan workers have been excelling in their work and putting pressure on more Kenyans to be sourced for future assignments,” Owaki said.
Owaki said that they are glad that Kenya joined Djibouti in allowing crew change to take place in their Port cities following the global lock down brought about by COVID-19 pandemic.
” Due to governments restrictions, seafarers were not allowed to leave ships once they dock at various ports in a bid to contain spread of COVID -19. After several measures administered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and subsequent government’s health ministries, this was eased. We already have had crew change take place right at the Port of Mombasa and this is highly commendable,” Owaki said.
He added that as a result, 30 Kenyan seafarers have taken up jobs aboard six fishing vessels that docked at the port last week and embarked on fishing voyage withing Kenyan waters.
”This move has ensured that our jobless seafarers with valid documents have landed jobs. We hope many more investors will pitch camp in Kenya and offer our people the much needed jobs,” he said.
He said that SUK operates as per its constitution and wished to allay fears that it had conducted illegal elections to fill in vacant slots.
” We know that there are non members who do not want to see us prosper . We will not be swayed by a few individuals who do not wish to see the Kenyan seafarer get his or her right footing in present day Kenya,” Owaki said.
On his part SUK chairman, Mr Mwalimu Chii Hamisi said that they are committed to ensuring that they work closely with the government for the benefit of all Kenyan seafarers.
” We enjoy good working relation with the Principal Secretary for Shipping and Maritime Affairs, Dr Nancy Karigithu who has tirelessly ensure that the image of Kenyan seafarer is maintained. She has worked tirelessly with key stakeholders in the maritime industry locally and abroad to give voice to the local seafarer and ensure that they get decent and well paying jobs ,” Hamisi said.
Hamisi said that as a union they will remain committed to working with the government of the day to ensure that seafarers enjoy maximum government protection and that their welfare is taken care of.
He reminded all seafarers to ensure they follow the right procedure by informing the union and the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) whenever in their individual capacities they land jobs on vessels.
” It is imperative for them to ensure that we know their movements. Both the Union and KMA can come in handy in the event of a dispute arising while at work,” Hamisi said.
SUK Gender Affairs official, Ms Janet Jawambe Mirobi said that it was high time that seafarers exhibit discipline in all they do to help attract attention from potential employers.
” You can hardly be recruited if you are known to be an activist of sorts and like engaging in street demonstrations. This is not what we want,” she said.
She warned that as a union, they will not tolerate anyone either a member or a non member who attempts to soil their name and that of the government in regards to seafaring .
Mirobi said that they remain highly indebted to President Uhuru Kenyatta for his resolve to give seafaring movement recognition by ensuring that Kenyans were exposed to jobs in the maritime industry both within and without the common borders.
” We are delighted when we see Kenyan youth take up jobs to work in luxurious cruise vessels that dock in overseas ports . We remain upbeat that once effects of coronavirus subside , there will be more job offers for our Kenyan seafarers,” she said.
Veteran seafarer, Mr Hassan Ismail Kombo alias Boflo said that time for empty promises to Kenyan seafarers is long gone and it was important that seafarers show appreciation to commitment by the government in trying to uplift them.
”We should never take it for granted. In the larger East Africa region, it is only our government that has a robust Blue Economy initiative that among others seeks to give jobs to local seafarers,” he said.
Ms Margaret Zawadi, youthful SUK shop steward and a pioneer member of Kenya’s initial 16 seafarers who were recruited by MSC in 2018 said that she is happy that the government saw her potential and lifted her up when she was assisted to secure a job aboard a cruise ship.
”I have toured the world , I have job satisfaction and today was able to save some money to start business back at home. I salute my government for this and assure them of my dedication to work,” she said.