Big relief as Kenya maritime waters off global high risk list


Singapore flagged vessel Mv NYK Clara docks at the Port of Mombasa. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Cargo ships destined for Mombasa port will no longer have to use long routes after the Kenya maritime waters within the Indian Ocean was re-designated from the High-Risk Area (HRA) by the global shipping industry.

The re-designation will see sea freight and maritime insurance premium for cargo going down. This will given Mombasa port a competitive edge against regional facilities such as Dar es Salaam port due to reduced importation and labour cost for seafarers aboard.

The announcement last week to the London-based 174-member International Maritime Organisation (IMO) by the Best Management Practices to Deter Piracy and Enhance Maritime Security (BMP-5), is a relief for shippers who have been suffering for the past eight years.

IMO is the United Nations (UN) agency responsible for improving the safety and security of global shipping.

Since 2009 during the heightened piracy cases, cargo ships destined for Mombasa had to use longest routes, beyond 300 nautical miles from the Indian Ocean coastline, to avoid encountering pirates. Other cargo ships hired private security aboard their ships for increased protection.

However, increased surveillance and joint maritime patrols by the Kenya Coast Guard Services and the Kenya Navy within the Kenyan maritime waters have resulted in significant reduction in piracy, with no incidents recorded since 2017.

In the past 18 months, Kenya Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs Nancy Karigithu, High Commissioner to the UK Manoah Esipisu with “strategic guidance” from the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee (NDICC) have played a key role in negotiating removal of Kenyan waters from the red list.

Kenyan team has lauded the BMP-5 for their decision and cooperation during the intense engagements which resulted in re-designation of Kenya maritime waters to reflect improved security.

Shippers in East Africa now hopes for improved business.

Shippers Council of Eastern Africa (SCEA) said the move by global shipping industry would not only save Kenya and other East African traders millions of dollars in insurance and security expenses, but will encourage more ships to call at Mombasa port.

“The move to remove the Kenyan maritime waters from a red list as a result of improved surveillance will lower cost of importation and also encourage those shipping companies which suspended its operations along such route to resume,” said SCEA chief executive officer Gilbert Lagat.

This decision will not only free Kenya from what had become a major restriction to the shipping industry, it also frees the rest of East Africa, and drastically lowers costs of supplies from all over the world.

Regional countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan who depend on the Port of Mombasa for both their exports and imports will also benefit from reduction of maritime insurance, leadint to increased competitiveness of their products.

Kenyan maritime waters were designated as High-Risk Area in 2009 by BMP-5, which comprise five largest global shipping industry associations, following increased incidents of piracy in the Indian Ocean, including in Kenyan maritime waters.

The groups include International Association of Dry Cargo Ship Owners (INTERCARGO), International Association of Independent Tank Owners (INTERTANKO), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO).

Kenya remains aware of security challenges in the Horn of Africa and the Gulf of Aden and will remain vigilant and continue working with other security players in the region such as EUNAVFOR Atalanta, to prevent re-emergence of piracy within the region.

Significantly, Kenya will be involved in the next steps to develop a more dynamic threat assessment process to benefit the shipping industry globally.