Lamu seafarers have embarked on a special campaign aimed at ensuring members observe maritime rules and regulations in a move meant to reduce marine tragedies.
Through their body, the Lamu Boat Operators Association, the mariners said that the campaign, which is already ongoing in the islands across the Lamu Archipelago, intends to ensure that all boats in the region are fully registered and licensed.
Lamu County in its entirety has over 5,000 boats operating in the more than 35 islands in the archipelago.
A recent report released by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Lamu Branch revealed that majority of the sea vessels operating in the Lamu Indian Ocean waters have not undergone due registration and licensing.
According to the report, only 300 vessels from the more than 2000 sea vessels operating in Lamu Island, for instance, had complied with all set standards required for efficient water transport.
Almost 99 percent of Lamu transport and the general movement are done via sea, using the boats, dhows and canoes.
In an interview with Shipping on Tuesday, Lamu Boat Operators Association Chairman Hassan Awadh said the key objective to launch the campaign is to stress to members the need for and the benefits of observing all rules and following the law even as they pursue their trade.
Mr Awadh warned that the association will thereafter not hesitate to punish members who shall be found deliberately flouting the regulations saying such individuals give a bad name to a good business.
A week ago, four passengers were injured after two boats collided in Lamu Town.
The accident is said to have purely been caused by careless driving on the part of the coxswains involved.
Mr Awadh reiterated that the newly launched initiative will also involve personalised checks and even vetting to ensure all those operating in the region are genuine.
He said the association was aware some of its members were clearly disobeying maritime regulations and also engaging in unruly behavior which has subsequently caused many accidents and deaths.
He said the major challenge they face is that of drunk boat operators, adding that they will liaise with the relevant bodies to access equipment that will enable them detect drunk boat operators and stop them from conducting the business in such a state.
“We’ve decided as an association to introduce this special campaign across the region. The initiative is purely to educate and reinforce the message of maritime regulations while at sea. The rules might seem frustrating but they are life saving. We want to boost discipline among our members. I believe lack of discipline among some of our boat operators here in Lamu is the major cause of the many accidents and deaths that have been witnessed. We are ready to punish those who don’t adhere. We are putting the safety of our passengers first because we know they are key in this business,” said Mr Awadh.
Some of the members who talked to Shipping on Tuesday also welcomed the move saying it has come on time.
Mr Aboud Fadhil, a coxswain, said maritime transport is the lifeline of Lamu and that improving its safety is paramount. Mr Fadhil said they were more than willing to cooperate with the association in ensuring proper planning of the water transport sector in the region.
“If we’re equipped with the knowledge concerning maritime transport safety, then we will be in a better place to conduct our daily activities since we will have information on what is expected of us. I am sure by the closure of the campaign, everyone here will be very cautious on matters to do with maritime safety and this alone will help curb careless driving and hence bring down water tragedies in our region,” said Mr Fadhil.
The campaign comes at a time when KMA has embarked on a countrywide campaign to enhance adherence to maritime regulations.
According a recent report by KMA, there is a worrying increase in the number of maritime accidents on the Kenyan territorial waters in recent times.