The number of boats operating in the Lamu Indian Ocean waters without complying with the required maritime rules and regulations are more than those that have complied.
According to the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) only 300 out of the more than 2,000 sea vessels being used across the Lamu archipelago have been registered and licensed.
In an interview, KMA Vessel Inspector and Manager, Edward Mulongo, said it is mandatory that all sea vessels are registered as per the maritime efficient water transport safety rules and regulations.
Mr Mulongo expressed disappointment that most boat operators in the region have not taken the issue of vessel registration and licensing seriously with many opting to use such vessels without following the right procedure.
The KMA official asked all boat operators and owners in Lamu Island and the other adjacent islands to ensure they are armed with all the necessary legal documentation permitting them to carry out their business.
At least 99 percent of movement and transport by Lamu residents is done at sea.
Lamu Old Town alone has over 1000 boats with another over 1000 boats operating in Pate, Siyu, Faza, Kizingitini, Ndau, Mkokoni, Kiwayu and Kiunga islands in Lamu East.
“Lamu transport activities majorly take place at sea. It’s however unfortunate that most of the boats, dhows and other water vessels being used here on a daily basis are unregistered and unlicensed. In Lamu alone, we’ve more than 2,000 sea vessels but only 300 or less have been registered and licensed. I therefore, appeal to all boat owners to ensure their vessels are approved and registered with the necessary bodies including the KMA and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA),” said Mr Mulongo.
He said the KMA will not sit back and watch maritime safety rules being flouted by irresponsible sea users.
He said the authority will be conducting crackdowns from time to time on all sea vessels that don’t comply with the maritime regulations.
“Our mission as the KMA is to ensure sustainable, safe, secure, clean and efficient water transport for the benefit of stakeholders through effective regulation, coordination and oversight of maritime affairs. This can only be achieved if maritime rules are observed and respected. We will be conducting frequent crackdowns and all those found breaching the rules will be arrested and promptly arraigned in court,” said Mr Mulongo.
Mr Mulongo warned passenger boat operators against overloading and overspeeding in order to avoid accidents and fatalities.
He also cautioned passenger boat owners whose vessels do not have the necessary safety gear that includes life jackets saying such vessels will be banned from operations and their owners charged for negligence.
A recent report released by the KMA indicates that marine accidents and fatalities have grown progressively in recent days with 50 percent of those accidents involving capsizing vessels while the rest being cases of drowning caused by unseaworthy vessels.
According to the KMA, a total of 242 Kenyans lost their lives during marine accidents while 330 others survived after being rescued on the Kenyan territorial waters between 2009 and 2019.