June 2008

Seafarers Training

Kenya Government has laid down a budget of Kshs. 30 million for the training of Kenyan Seafarers (officers and ratings) so that preparations can be made for Kenya to be on the IMO’s white list.

We have received information that a meeting was held in Nairobi early June 2008 in which the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) invited all the training Institutions in Kenya including Universities up country, to see if they can handle the training.

With the lure of Kshs. 30 million budget, almost all the Universities turned and agreed to host the courses up to Degree level without knowing whether or not the IMO requirement entail the Sea training aspect of the courses for officers and ratings.

The KMA must have copied the syllabus from some body else’s training scheme, but the universities do not understand it. Maritime educations conducted in the university of Nairobi and Moi university lack focus on the Maritime Sector. A few maritime courses are taught as part of the law degree program.

As a result, specialization is lacking, for example no post graduate degree in maritime law is available in the country in contrast to African Maritime nations such as Mauritius, Egypt and South Africa. Areas such as Maritime security, maritime environment protection, conservation efficiency in use of seas and inland waters, marine engineering. Nautical studies etc are not covered either at the academic or the professions levels.

Compounding the lack of maritime education is the lack of research and development activities in the maritime sector. The objectives of seafarers training are to safeguard life, property and the environment. To fulfill these objectives, a focus beyond vessel condition and organizational management system is required. Many maritime incidents and accidents are related to human error and should be the starting point for proactive competence management of the Seafarers.

So IMO’s white list scheme and assessment of Accredited Training facilities namely Maritime Academies (teaching upto Degree levels), Maritime Training Centres (teaching to meet STCW requirements), the teaching personnel with seafaring background, crewing agencies, commercial agents not Government agents who know what shipping is all about and are conversant with ILO conventions and local Labor Laws, quality company superintendents and Designated Persons Ashore (DPA), Company’s Security Officers(CSO) all need to be looked into.

South Africa shipping fleet has dwindled to nothing other than last 20 years. But training schools are still there, and no berths are now available on board, South African Ships to train cadets. They expected foreign ship owners to help them with the training of South African cadets for future employment.

Philippines had 37 Maritime Academies, 19 Maritime Training Centres, 17 Crew Manning Agencies.

They supply over 20% of the world Seafarers plus the fact that they have ships of their own. Philippines rely heavily on foreign owners (mainly Japanese) to finance and maintain their training programs and facilities for their Seafarers. Hungary trained and certifies 457 Seafarers by 2005 but they have no ships of their own to employ them. So they supply their Seafarers to the world, supplying industry particularly to the European Union.

Kenya has nothing, neither international trading ships nor IMO recognized training facilities. To spend Kshs. 30 million wisely, they will be well advised to have one of the recognized accreditation bodies to look at their situation. First, to avoid making silly mistakes by trying to go it alone. But stumbling block is that no foreigners are supposed to know what the Kenya Maritime Authority will do with the money.

So the nagging question remains, where is the market for Kenya Seafarers? The universities are looking for the training of officers, what about the ratings?

We understand, proposals put forward by Bandari College were rejected and considered as rubbish. Kenya Maritime Authority should not be involved in the training of Seafarers but they have to examine them. Kenya Maritime Authority examiners must also be accredited as fit to examine by a recognized authority or organization to see that they maintain IMO standards, for in the Shipping Industry these days everybody is monitoring and or auditing everybody else.

The severe shortage of officers is going to adversely impact the ambitions expansion plans of shipping companies. It is very difficult to run the existing fleet. For instance ships are held up at Ports due to shortage of officers. A ship cannot sail without the prescribe number of crew. The shortage of Seafarers has led to long working hours for Seafarers. There have been some cases of suicide by Seafarers recently.

Current trends suggest that the number of Kenyan Deck and Engineer officers will be less than half by the year 2010. Currently, the average age of the Kenyan Merchant Navy Officers is rising, with 75% currently aged over 45 years, with the result that a high proportion of the Kenyan officers workforce is due to retire within the next decade and their replacement not being recruited and trained in adequate numbers.

These statistics show that current recruitment methods are not effective enough at generating the interest in careers, the industry has to offer, and unless this situation is improved upon, not only will the Kenya’s Merchant shipping employees afloat suffer, but the entire country’s multi- billion shilling maritime sector, which relies heavily on experienced and knowledgeable personnel who have previously been Seafarers, and whose insight into Seagoing side of the industry is essential for successful business in ship management companies, nautical training, marine Insurance and surveying and other will suffer too.

Training of new crew from scratch to senior officer level can take from between eight (8) to 10 years.

Andrew Mwangura
Programs Coordinator
Seafarers’ Assistance Program.




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