Kenya has stepped up its efforts to secure its waters and curb illegal fishing following the launch of the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS).
President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the service at Liwatoni in Mombasa on Monday.
KCGS is a multi-agency security service established under the Kenya Coast Guard Service Act, 2018 to enforce law and order in Kenya’s territorial waters.
The Ministry of Interior says KCGS will be based in Liwatoni, “with a strong presence in Lamu, Kisumu, and Mombasa ports.”
Kenya’s territorial waters comprise all natural water resources within the borders, waters within 12 nautical miles of the country’s shoreline and Kenya’s exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles, beyond the territorial sea).
The sovereignty of a State extends beyond its land territory and internal waters to an adjacent belt of the sea. Kenya’s territorial sea extends 12 nautical miles of the country’s shore line.
KCGS is to exercise powers over Kenya’s territorial waters and any other area prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The enactment of the Kenya Coast Guard Service Act paved way for the Interior and Coordination of National Government CS to issue a gazette notice declaring 2 November, 2018 as the commencement of the service’s operations.
The Apex body of the service is the Council of the Kenya Coast Guard Service chaired by the CS for Interior and Coordination of National Government. Others in the council include Cabinet Secretaries of Defense, Treasury, Transport, Agriculture and Environment as well as the Attorney General, the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Inspector General of Police (IG) and the Director General KCGS.
The Act also establishes the technical committee of the service which is chaired by Interior PS. Other members of the council include the PSs for Treasury, Fisheries, Environment, Defence and Transport. The Solicitor- General, CDF, IG, Director- General of the service, Director- General of the Kenya Maritime Authority, the Director- General of the Kenya Ports Authority and the Director- General of National Intelligence Service also sit in the technical committee.
The Council of the Kenya Coast Guard Service is to provide overall policy leadership, coordination of partner departments such as fisheries, the KRA, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), and approval of budget and commissioning of operations.
The technical committee will oversee management and administration of the service, advice the council on matters of the service, guide the director general of the service on implementation of the council’s policy and financial guidelines as well as undertake all other relevant management duties.
Brigadier Vincent Naisho Loonena was appointed by President Kenyatta as the founding Director- General of KCGS and he is to report to the council and technical committee.
Kenyans now have for the first time the right to exploit all economic activity covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone. These include fishing, drilling and other economic activities.
The KCGS is to protect Kenya’s territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone from illegal invasion or exploitation. It will also help curb illegal and unregulated fishing, border disputes, piracy, human and drug trafficking, illicit trade, smuggling of contraband goods, degradation of the marine ecosystems — through discharge of oil or dumping of toxic wastes — and harvesting and destruction of coral reefs.
The Kenya Coast Guard Service will also ensure that vessels, sea farers and all sea users have the necessary licences approving their operations at sea, whether work, leisure or business.
“This initiative will strengthen our border with a larger and related goal of mitigating its risks of transnational organised crime through increased trans-border intelligence and information sharing. As a result, the service will contribute significantly to managing migration, improve internal security and prevent cross-border crime,” said a statement from the Ministry of Interior.
“Kenya has done very well in securing its airspace and securing exploitation of its land-based natural resources. The launch of KCGS provides a shift in focus and a huge recognition of the economic potential of our water-based resources and the need to secure and exploit them to our countries economic development.”
Speaking during the launch of KCGS, President Kenyatta directed the Fisheries department and the National Land Commission to repossess all public fish landing sites that were illegally acquired. He said that all gazetted fish landing sites at the coast, in lakes Victoria and Turkana and any other lakes or rivers in the country, should be recovered and secured by the end of March 2019.
He praised a local firm, One Holding Ltd, for voluntarily returning Liwatoni fish landing site to the government and urged others who have illegally acquired such facilities to also surrender before they are repossessed.
The Head of State also signed two executive orders establishing the Kenya Fisheries Corporation and the Bandari Maritime Academy which will be critical in revitalising the Blue Economy in Kenya.
At the event also attended by the Deputy President William Ruto, Mr Kenyatta said the launch of the Coast Guard Service was long overdue.
“For too long we have experienced multiple problems with marine security including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by foreign trawlers, smuggling of contraband goods, degradation of marine ecosystems through discharge of oil, toxic waste dumping and the destruction of coral reefs and coastal forests,” said the President noting that the country loses Sh10 billion annually through illegal fishing.
The Head of State said apart from illegal fishing, the country and the region face other security concerns such as drug and human trafficking and trans-shipment of illegal arms which come through the sea because of lack of proper surveillance mechanisms.
“The Coast Guard will ensure that our ocean will no longer be used by drug and human traffickers, illegal arms dealers and illegal fishing vessels. It will guard against exploitation of our natural resources by foreign countries and ensure that never again will a foreign vessel steal our fish,” he said.
Saying the ocean is the emerging frontier for economic and social transformation of sea-facing States, the President reiterated that Kenya is well positioned to emulate other countries that have excelled in the utilisation of maritime resources.
“Our coastal and inland waters cover 222,950 square kilometres, equivalent to 31 counties. Of the global tuna catch of 4.35 million metric tonnes — worth about $2-3 billion annually — one quarter is caught off Kenya’s coastline,” said the President.
He said within the next five years, the government intends to create more than 10,000 jobs through the establishment of trans-shipment and logistics hubs in Mombasa and Lamu. “We will create a destination port for cruise ships, establish world-class training facilities in maritime studies, have a fully-fledged and operational national shipping line by urgently reviving the Kenya National Shipping Line,” said the President.
He said by strengthening the cruise-shipping sector, the country would create seafaring jobs, jump start coastal agriculture and agro-processing.
Mr Ruto said the Coast Guard Service will transform the country’s economy for current and future generations.
“Government efforts to revive the Blue Economy is about enhancing our manufacturing sector, job creation and food security which are at the heart of the Big 4 agenda,” said the Deputy President.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i assured that the government will protect fishermen and Kenya’s marine resources and deal firmly with all criminal acts in Kenyan waters.
“We will not negotiate on our marine resources and our territorial security,” the CS said.