The government is determined to seal loopholes used for illegal trade in Kenya's waters, with the launch of the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) on Monday.
President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned the service in Liwatoni, Mombasa County, noting that its goals are to enhance maritime security and protect Kenya's resources.
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.
The service comprises personnel from the police, army and intelligence services and civilian professionals seconded from the Public Service Commission.
The president also commissioned MV Doria, the vessel that the service will use for surveillance.
The special force will be headquartered at the Liwatoni Fisheries Complex in Mombasa but will have a strong presence at the Mombasa, Lamu and Kisumu ports.
Speaking during the inspection of the venue ahead of the launch, Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said the government could not continue losing millions of shillings through illegal trade.
It is estimated that Kenya loses Sh10 billion in revenue annually due to illegal and criminal activities at sea.
The coastal guard is expected to keep Kenya’s seashores safe from aggression and illegal commercial activities.
“We have lost a lot of money because of the illegal trade. With the launch of the special force, we are hoping to contain the situation,” said Mr Kibicho.
He said the KCGS is meant to bring together all the government agencies involved in matters maritime to ensure the Kenyan ocean is secured.
Mr Kibicho said MV Doria will help authorities deal with crimes perpetrated at sea.
“The boat will have all our officers on board to ensure everything is checked before it gets in and out of country,” said Mr Kibicho, who was accompanied by his shipping and fisheries colleagues Nancy Karigithu and Ntiba Micheni.
He added that the government will acquire more boats for patrols and boost security at the borders.
Prof Karigithu said officers assigned to the service will work closely with their counterparts in surveillance facilities installed on land.
“The efficient facilities installed in our offices will give reports to the special team, which will go for targets directly,” she added.
The launch comes as Kenya prepares to host the sustainable blue economy conference from November 22 to 26.
Fisheries Principal Secretary Ntiba Micheni said its establish is in line with the government’s efforts to invest in the blue economy.