The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has launched a countrywide crackdown on unregistered marine vessels even as it heightens its safety compliance campaign.
The ongoing operation has seen the arrest of 15 boat operators in Kilifi County where KMA officials had pitched camp last week.
Fishermen from Kilifi Central, Mnarani and Takaungu Beach Management Units (BMUs) and a foreign fisherman from Pemba in Tanzania were among those arrested.
KMA North Coast branch inspector Alex Munga said the boat operators were found without valid safety certification licence and did not have prescribed safety appliances.
“This will be a continuous activity that will help us to sustain sanity and compliance in our water transport. We had issued a notice before the countrywide operation started,” said Mr Munga.
He said that a lack of resources is among major challenges KMA faces as it seeks to conduct frequent vessel inspections.
“The people who have been mandated by the Act to inspect the vessels are less than ten and we are supposed to go around the whole country,” he said.
The operation comes even as Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) recently said that it is undertaking a research that will be seeking cabinet approval for mandatory radar reflectors for all vessels within coastal waters.
KCGS further said it would also seek collaboration with the Kenya Fisheries Service (KeFS) and KMA in capturing and digitising all vessels in the inland and coastal waters.
On Monday, KMA director general George Okong’o visited Mombasa County offices to deliberate with its leadership on efforts to enhance safety compliance, marine environment protection and adherence to the provision of the Merchant Shipping Regulations 2012 ahead of the upcoming safety compliance campaign in the county.
The ongoing campaigns have however been met with protests from fishermen who have complained that their work will be paralysed.
Kilifi Central Beach Management Unit (BMU) secretary Rukia Juma faulted KMA’s move to arrest boat operators saying they need more time to comply.
“They would have given us at least one week to sensitise all fishermen to set all their documents in order. Every year we register ourselves with the fisheries department where every fisherman and boat owner is registered with the Beach Management Unit,” she said.
Ms Juma called on the government to use the department of fisheries to reach out to fishermen through their respective BMUs on any laws to avoid arrests.