The Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) has found itself in uncharted territory after impounding two vessels that were later found to have the necessary documents to sail in Kenyan waters.
It has emerged that the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA and Fisheries department had prior information on the existence of Hanrong 108 and Hanrong 109 in the Kenyan waters, and their impounding by the KCGS indicated a communication breakdown between the state agencies.
KCGS had said the vessels, Harong 109 had 11 crew members and Harong 108 had nine crew members, were illegally in Kenyan territory.
But in documents and correspondence seen by Shipping, the KMA and Kenya Marine Fisheries cleared the vessels on February 20 after inspecting them at Abbas Port in the Republic of Iran.
Everland Foods Limited, a local company which entered into a joint venture with the Zhejiang Hairong Ocean Fisheries Company — which owns the two vessels — facilitated the inspecting officers’ travel to Port Abbas.
The inspection was conducted after the owner of the vessels applied for a deep sea fishing licence to the Kenya Fisheries department and was approved. In a letter dated January 7, 2019, the vessels were allowed to operate beyond 12 nautical miles within Kenya’s Exclusive Economic Zone.
Two separate inspection reports signed by KMA surveyor Shaban Omar Tayari and his fisheries counterpart, Mikah Nyaberi, show that the vessels were certified to be in good condition and ready to proceed to Kenya, which was the last port of call.
“The vessel was surveyed by the undersigned inspector in Bandar, Abbas Port. The hull was found to be in good condition and all machines were tested and found to be in good working order. The vessel is fit for registration and issuance of necessary safety certificate,” states the report signed by Mr Tayari.
The documents indicate that the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) coordinated the docking of the vessels.
The KMA confirmed that the vessels were among the six inspected by the authority at Bandar Abbas in February and were recommended to be in good condition for registration.
The seizure of the vessels, analysts said, illustrates how government agencies dealing with marine operations are working at cross-purpose. These agencies have to have clearly defined mandate to avoid such overlaps, they added.
Since it was launched last year, KCGS has made some progress, providing security in Kenyan waters. This has allowed fishermen to venture into the deep waters where they had been banned from accessing. Fishermen especially those from Lamu had been affected by a ban of fishing in areas bordering Somalia
The national chairman of the Wavuvi Association of Kenya Hamid Omar, said although some foreign vessels have been seen fishing in Kenyan waters, formation of the service has deterred illegal fishing.
“The service has helped us in terms of protecting our territory and also the local fishermen. Before KCGS was formed, we used to compete with illegal fishermen in our territories. Nowadays we rarely see them, unless they are afar in the deep seas where we can’t venture due to lack of enough fishing gears,” Mr Omar said.
President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the agency on November 18 last year to safeguard Kenya’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing which has proved a setback to the fishing industry.
The agency was also aimed at boosting enforcement capacity of the Fisheries department which had been faced with lack of resources and proper training to enable it monitor and control activities of Distance Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs).
The special force in the service include officers from the army and the police. The KCGS seized Tanzanians and their 23 fishing vessels on May 24, while operating in Kenya’s territorial waters after their boats landed in Kilifi, Wesa, Watamu, Ngomeni, Malindi, Uyombo, Mayungu and Kipini.