A maritime security agency has intensified its operations in the coastal waters as it seeks to tame crimes on the Indian Ocean.
The Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) said it is now focused on equipping the joint operation centre whose role is to deal with maritime crimes.
KCGS is the lead agency at the centre whose key responsibility is monitoring of the coastal waters to ward off criminal elements.
Currently, KCGS Director- General Naisho Loonena said the centre is being equipped with vessel traffic systems that will enable the agency and other relevant government agencies to monitor the porous borders.
“This will involve monitoring activities at sea, fusing information provided by different agencies and analysing this data in order to identify patterns, trends, anomalies and suspicious activities,” said Brigadier Loonena.
He said KCGS will establish a coastal surveillance system with overlapping radars to ensure tight monitoring of the coastal waters.
KCGS, he added is undertaking a research and will be seeking cabinet approval for mandatory radar reflectors for all vessels within coastal waters. “KCGS will seek collaboration with Kenya Fisheries Service (KeFS) and Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) in capturing and digitising all vessels in the inland and coastal waters,” Brigadier Loonena said.
Meanwhile, in its bid to equip the centre, KCGS got a boost last week after the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) handed over a patrol boat christened “KRA 002” to improve the agency’s capacity in dealing with illegal trade and the other criminal activities.
“The handing over of the vessel to KCGS underscores the commitment of KRA to the multiagency framework to secure our country,” said commissioner Fred Mugambi who handed over the boat on behalf of the KRA Commissioner General Githii Mburu.
The country loses at least Sh10 billion in revenue annually due to illegal and criminal activities at sea, according to the government analysis.
Brigadier Loonena said equipping the centre and heightening of the operations follows KCGS concerns on reported maritime incidents such as trafficking of narcotics, weapons, illegal wildlife products, human and counterfeits.
“Quick reaction capabilities are also vital in the marine environment, such as in search and rescue situations, to prevent environmental disasters, or to ensure the timely arrest of suspected maritime crime offenders,” he added.
KCGS, he noted, believes that a multi-agency approach coupled with public-private partnership will guarantee maritime trade facilitation in safe and secure waterways.
The agency was officially launched by President Uhuru Kenyatta in November last year with an aim of safeguarding the country’s blue economy against “illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing” which has proved a setback to the fishing industry.
The agency is 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 the Distance Water Fishing Nations (DWFNs).
The Coast Guard Act, 2018 established the KCGS, which is responsible for maritime security and safety, pollution control and sanitation measures as well as prosecuting offenders.