Shipping & Logistics

Seafarers accuse agency of keeping mum as their rights violated

cargo-ship

A cargo ship arrives at the Mombasa port. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Some seafarers have protested what they term neglect by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) as their rights are violated on board foreign ships.
  • This is despite the KMA saying cases of seafarers being abandoned and exploited by marine employers have reduced.

Some seafarers have protested what they term neglect by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) as their rights are violated on board foreign ships.

This is despite the KMA saying cases of seafarers being abandoned and exploited by marine employers have reduced.

Albert Adembesa, chairman of Registered Seafarers Movement, said the authority has failed to enforce some of the laws on security and safety in the marine industry. Some ship owners have also failed to follow the set guidelines, he added.

“The law enforcer should ensure that the people are not exploited. Some of us are still being paid below the minimum wage and end up working overtime,” said Mr Adembesa during a sensitisation workshop for seafarers.

KMA director Robert Njue, however, said they had tightened the noose against illegal activities in the maritime sector in their push to adhere to international set standards for the welfare of seamen by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Mr Njue said those who face challenges onboard ships do not have employment agreements because they sought recruitment and placements from unlicensed agents as required by KMA.

“It was noted that many seafarers fear to seek clarification from the Authority on the contents of the Seafarers Employment Agreement before signing. Many seafarers who face challenges onboard ships did not have employment agreements with their employers and they did not seek employment through recruitment and placement agents licensed by KMA,” he said.

KMA said all recruitment and placement agents are required to submit employment agreements for seafarers recruited every first week of the month, and are regularly monitored by KMA for compliance with the requirements of Merchant Shipping Act, 2009 and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC), 2006.

So far, only five agencies have been gazetted and licensed to operate in the recruitment and placement of seafarers in Kenya.

To reduce violations of their rights, seafarers were urged to sign employment agreements which are binding for both parties as this may reduce violation of seafarers’ rights to a large extent.

This comes as thousands of seamen have been stranded onboard ships due to Covid-19, since they are unable to disembark after running out of the employment network. The stranded seafarers have served for more than 11 months, the maximum continuous period that a seafarer can serve onboard a vessel, according to MLC 2006.