Two announcements touching on Kenya’s maritime security may have disappeared somewhere in the labyrinth of heated political exchanges, but they are too crucial to ignore.
In the first, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) disclosed that the National Treasury had agreed to allocate funds for financing full operations of two security ships in 2018/19.
The ships are mv Doria, a sea patrol vessel acquired from Bangladesh four years ago at a cost of Sh3.6 billion, and mv Mtafiti, a research ship donated by Belgium.
Kenya needs the patrol vessel to police its deep seas which have reportedly become a safe haven for foreign trawlers looking for easy fishing spot on the Indian Ocean.
The research vessel, on other hand, will be used to determine the range of wealth that Kenya has on its portion of the Ocean.
But Kenya needs laws to co-ordinate its ocean wealth protection efforts. That brings us to the second announcement made last week.
The National Assembly disclosed that it had moved the Kenya Coast Guard Service (CGS) Bill, 2017 to the committee stage after it sailed through the first reading.
It, therefore, invited the public to present views on the proposed CGS laws to the Administration and National Security Committee.
Just like forests and wildlife have specific agencies, maritime experts have pushed for CGS to protect Kenya’s ocean wealth.
The country claims a huge exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Indian Ocean.
From the shoreline to its EEZ boundary, Kenya claims over 600km (width), an equivalent of Mombasa-Naivasha distance by road. Its length constitutes a long coast line of about 1,420km.
That is the area that the CGS and the patrol vessels need to keep illegal fishers, waste dumping vessels, smugglers and pirates at bay.
Generally, foreign ships prefer Africa because of its weak ocean-governing laws.
Apart from poor surveillance, Africa is known for its weak vessel age-limit rules, sloppy inspection regimes, lower safety standards as well as weaker labour and environmental protection standards.