More than 500 marine vessels risk being barred from operating at Kisumu’s Winam Gulf for failure to comply with maritime regulations.
Kenya Maritime Authority director-general George Okong’o said majority of the vessels have not met the safety requirements and therefore unseaworthy.
“We had given notices to marine vessel operators in the Kenyan waters to comply with the marine safety regulations. These notices elapsed in June 1 and we thought it was wise to sensitize people before the crackdown begins,” said Mr Okong’o.
The crackdown will look into the competence of the marine vessel operators, licensing and safety of vessels.
“We will inspect if the vessels have required marine equipment, whether the operators are trained to run marine vessels and certified by KMA. We want to ensure all ferries and boats meet and adhere to marine safety standards as per the Maritime and Shipping Act,” he said.
Maritime accidents on Kenyan waters have been increasing in the past 10 years, with a majority caused by human error.
According to the KMA, 50 per cent of the accidents involve capsizing of vessels while 40 per cent are drowning cases related to unseaworthy vessels. In the western region, Homa Bay County is arguably leading in marine accidents.
“For the past 10 years we have recorded about 242 deaths and 330 survivors of marine accidents at the lake. Although the number might be more considering there are many unreported cases,” he said.
“Benefits that come with this campaign are more. Safety and security of a vessel is paramount. By people boarding vessels that are certified and with qualified crew, it increases the guarantee of them arriving at the destinations safely.”
Last month five ferries and two motorboats belonging to Mbita Ferry Services were suspended over poor safety standards following a crackdown in Homa Bay.
“Because of the crackdown in Homa Bay, approximately 40 vessel owners have appreciated the importance of marine safety and therefore looking forward to licence their vessels,” he said.
Mr Okong’o added that licensing of the vessels will ensure an increase in revenue collection from the lake operations.
“This crackdown will ensure a fair play of trade within the Kenyan waters. We want to eliminate scenarios where we have vessels that are not registered operating within the Kenyan waters competing with the registered vessels.”
“As an authority we will continue to strengthen maritime regulatory framework and ensure compliance to maritime safety regulation in order to reduce the number water accidents,” he said.
“Kenya is a member of the International Maritime Organization, and we have those regulations, conventions and agreements that we as a country are party to, so these regulations being enforced are international,” said Mr Okong’o.
He said Kenya is striving to remain on the global white list which contains countries with high safety standards.
“Kenya is among the few countries in Africa in the white list. Worldwide we have 57 countries declared to be on the list out of a membership of close to 170. The strides that the authority is taking are meant to ensure that the country maintains the set international standards.”
The maritime safety compliance has already been done in Lamu County, Homa Bay is expected to spread to Kwale County.