State plans wage council for seamen, says Karigithu

State Department of Maritime and Shipping Affairs Principal Secretary Nancy Karigithu at a past event. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The government will establish a wage standard council and regulations for Kenyan seafarers to improve their working conditions.

Shipping and Maritime Affairs secretary Nancy Karigithu on Tuesday said the department was working with the Ministry of Labour to prepare regulations on minimum wages for seafarers.

“The establishment of wage standards for seafarers will be a milestone towards better employment conditions.

“We are aware of pressing challenges facing the welfare of our seafarers and we are working hard to ensure that they are well taken care of,” said Ms Karigithu without indicating when the regulations will be implemented.

Speaking during Day of the Seafarer at The Mission to Seamen Club in Shanzu, Mombasa, Ms Karigithu called on locally based shipping lines to address issues affecting seamen.

“Unpaid wages and abandonment when they are sick are some of these issues we must jointly address and we urge our shipping companies to join us and do their best in ensuring the seafarers’ welfare is up to mark,” she said.

The seamen have for many years decried their poor working conditions and discrimination at work.

Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK) chairman Daudi Hajj said most seamen are unemployed despite a good number acquiring the required qualifications and documents.

“There are many companies here but what we see is foreigners being employed despite our own spending their money and time in seeking the required documents,” said Mr Hajj.

He said that unlike Tanzania, where the law specifies the percentage of local seafarers to be employed, the Kenyan government has failed to implement the same.

“These people are required to re-validate their certificates after every five years but they are not employed and all they do is to hang around with their papers,” he said.

Some of the seafarers who spoke to Shipping on the sidelines of the event complained of low pay.

“We do the same work as people from China but we end up being paid $300 per month whereas our colleagues earn $1,000 and yet out government keeps giving out unfulfilled promises,” said Mohammed Kassim, a seafarer.

Meanwhile, Ms Karigithu said Det Forenede DampskibsSelskab, a Danish shipping company, was offering Kenyans on-ship training.

She said that the government had entered into an MoU with the International Association of Maritime Universities to mentor Kenyan maritime universities.

“This is meant to ensure we build capacity for our trainees as we engage partners. In the meantime, we will rely on the partnership as we fight for our own training vessel,” she said.

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