THE SAFETY AND
HEALTH OF KENYAN FISHERS ON BOARD INDUSTRIAL FISHING VESSELS
reference to Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported - IUU -
AND BACKGROUND MATERIALS FOR THE OBSERVATORY OF SEAFARERS’
RIGHTS, UNIVERSITY OF NANTES, FRANCE 2-DAY MEETING ON SAFETY AND
HEALTH IN THE FISHING INDUSTRY
– 18TH 2005
P. O. Box 92273
and International Instruments
preparation of this document was constituted by Prof. Patrick
Chaumette, the Director, Faculty of Law and Political Science
Nantes University, France and Mr. James Smith of the Seafarers’
Rights Observatory, Nantes University, France.
I am greatly indebted to them for having offered me an
opportunity to serve the Seafarers’ Rights Observatory,
more than one way the completion of this dossier was due to
support and contribution, material or otherwise, from many
groups, individuals and organizations.
am indeed grateful to them all, but I just want to mention a few
in this space.
beg to extend my deep appreciation to the office of the Kenya
Merchant Shipping Superintendent, the Kenya National Library
Service, the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, and
lack words to express my sincere gratitude to Madam Nancy
Karigithu, a Mombasa based maritime lawyer, for her immense
contribution to the completion of this document.
completion of this dossier was to a large extent made possible
by the fishers who at different times availed themselves to give
my hope that this dossier will be a step towards developing
innovative approaches and enhance co-operation between EC, ILO,
IMO, and OECD nations and African countries in the collective
effort to protect fishers and to develop the fishing industry in
Andrew M Mwangura.
recorded association with maritime trade dates back to the 9th
century when the Arabs from Oman established Manda Island 250km
north of Mombasa as their base and port.
the latter part of 15th century, the Portuguese
dislodged the Arab rulers and in 1505 the Portuguese made
Mombasa their headquarters, being the hub of administration.
British occupied Kenya in 1886 and soon thereafter construction
of Mombasa Harbour started in earnest.
should be noted that the activities of the colonisers were
mainly happening at the Coast, because the mode of transport in
those days was only by ships.
situation has not changed much with the introduction of air
transport as 90% of world trade is still being transported by
has a coastline measuring some 640-km and a long tradition in
its geographical position, the country has not achieved its
potential in international shipping, mainly due to the lack of a
coherent maritime policy and failure to set up appropriate legal
institutional and administrative frameworks for the exploitation
of the maritime zones.
of this neglect, Kenya has not kept pace with technological
developments at the international maritime arena.
major international conventions which have a bearing on trade,
safety at sea, marine pollution, training and certification of
seafarers, fishers and salvage at sea, preservation of the
marine environment and maritime security have not been
implemented in the country, leading to stagnation in the
development of the maritime industry.
Kenya, maritime administration is the responsibility of the
Kenya Ports Authority, which appoints the Merchant Shipping
Superintendent to administer the Merchant Shipping Act.
Kenya Merchant Shipping Act of 1967 is a derivative of the UK
Merchant Shipping Act of 1894, which has since been amended
severally while our act has remained the same.
Act is over 30 years old, outdated, and does not cover the
important international shipping and maritime legislation
conventions to which Kenya is a party.
Merchant Shipping Act has also not incorporated several
important guidelines, codes and procedures on port state control,
safe management of ships, the handling of dangerous and
hazardous cargoes and the global maritime distress safety system
is a signatory to the Indian Ocean memorandum of understanding (MOU)
on port state control.
the MOU, the merchant shipping superintendent is obliged to
inspect 15% of all the ships that call on Kenyan ports in order
to enhance safety of shipping.
Merchant Shipping Act fails to give the legal basis upon which
such inspections can be undertaken and therefore Kenya cannot
meet her obligations under the MOU.
inadequacy of the Kenyan Merchant Shipping Act is further
demonstrated by the inability of Kenya to meet the minimum
requirements for the acceptance into the IMO “white list” of
nations that have complied with the STCW 95 convention.
has forced Kenyan seafarers out of employment on foreign
might also have serious repercussions as Kenyan registered ships
may be refused entry to other ports.
order to overcome these obstacles there is a need for the
government of Kenya to:
develop a national maritime policy, which should provide
guidelines on administration and regulation of the maritime
industry, maritime trade, maritime services, seafarers and
fishers’ welfare, port infrastructure, maritime security,
admiralty jurisdiction, maritime education, training and
research, marine pollution and the appropriate legislative
legislative and institutional framework for maritime
administration in Kenya, given that the office of the merchant
shipping superintendent operates under the Kenya Ports
Authority. This raises a conflict of duty and interest, as the
Kenya Ports Authority is both a provider of services and a
overhaul the Employment Act, Fisheries Act and the Merchant
Shipping Act so as to incorporate various maritime conventions
and agreements to which Kenya is a signatory. It hurts to state
here that the Fisheries Act does not provide labour protection
for fishers. It is also disheartening to note that the Labour
Laws of Kenya are silent about Fishers’ and Seafarers’
Welfare. There is an urgent need of action into these matters
sooner rather than later because they offer practical and direct
aid to encourage the recruitment and retention of Kenyan
Seafarers aboard coastal and foreign ocean-going vessels as well
as fishing vessels.
strongly believe that they will improve social conditions of
Fishers and Seafarers by preventing unacceptable exploitation
through proper agreement on shipboard conditions.
IN SILENCE: KENYAN FISHERS:
is disheartening to note here that for a very long time the
tears of the oppressed Kenyan seafarers and fishers have been a
are shed by victims of countless acts of oppression and piracy
attacks at sea. Those who have been victimized often feel that
they have no comforter, and that no one really cares about them.
this torrent of tears, some are unmoved by the suffering of the
seafarers/fishers. They turn a blind eye to the pain of
hurts very much to say that for a very long time, Kenyan
seafarers have been mis-represented and inadequately represented.
They’ve also been short-changed by local maritime lawyers.
They have simply been ignored, underrated or rejected by their
oppressors and by their own union leaders and local ITF
inspector, who are supposed to help them. They have so far not
been able to find the wherewithal to efficiently oblige the
government of Kenya and the employers to make amends for their
unjust treatment of Kenyan seafarers and fishers.
is a sad reality that 80% of Kenyan seafarers are unemployed and
those employed are, in effect, dispossessed people deprived of
basic rights and lacking any recourse to normal grievance
study in Labour market opportunities and constraints conducted
in 2002 by the Seafarers Assistance Program (SAP)
showed that 165 Kenyan fishers work aboard local Italian and
Korean owned fishing trawlers, while 295 work on EC vessels,
mostly Spanish trawlers and long liners. And about 65 work on
Korean long-liners. Kenya’s fishing fleet is comprised of 17
Italian and 3 Korean owned fishing trawlers.
local Italian, Korean and EC owned vessels employing Kenyans do
not comply with ILO Conventions and International Labour
Standards, nor does the EU fisheries agreement.
from being underpaid, Kenyan Fishers working aboard local
Italian, Korean and EC vessels usually have no regular hours of
work and once the vessels start to fish, rest periods are
infrequent, until the skippers are satisfied that enough fish
has been caught and stored.
hurts to say that there are no proper agreements, safety and
health measures, medical care at sea, nor social security aboard
the local and foreign fishing vessels.
being under-manned, the local Italian and Korean fishing vessels
is currently experiencing serious fish and fish products
shortages of over 200,000 metric tonnes according to the
Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries – Kenya.
protein requirement of fish is 9.5 kg per year for an individual
and we have a population of 30 million people.
translates to a requirement of 300,000 metric tonnes per year
which shows that there is a serious shortage crisis with the
current production. This is due to IUU fishing in this region by
the EU, Korean and local fishing vessels, and
to the lack of fishing policy in the country.
earns Kshs. 4 billion (U.S $50 million) from fish exports
annually. While fishmongers earn Kshs. 6 billion (U.S $75
million) yearly in an industry that contributes 4% to the
country gross domestic product (GDP).
the country is only able to produce 70,000 metric tonnes of fish
with 90% coming from Lake Victoria, which has over 40,000
fishers have been involved in many documented sea piracies along
the Somali territorial waters involving 5 Kenyan, 2 Korean, 3
Italian and 2 Russian-registered fishing vessels.
not all the confrontations between Somali militias and crews
have been resolved peacefully.
a number of them have ended in violence, claiming lives, serious
physical and psychological injuries to several people on both
sides. Property worth millions of dollars has also been lost.
rich fishing grounds off the 3,300km- long Somali coastline are
estimated to yield an annual sustainable marine production of
between 300,000 and 500,000 metric tonnes.
to the breakout of civil war in Somalia following the ouster of
dictator Mohammed Said Barre in 1991, available fisheries
statistics showed that the official annual marine output stood
at 20,000 metric tonnes, a mere 4% of the potential production.
country’s artisanal fishermen and licensed foreign fishing
vessels landed half of this catch.
fully exploited, the fisheries’ output could contribute
substantially to the country’s gross national product.
fishing activities in the Indian Ocean region have been aided by
Kenyan, Korean, Italian and rich deep-water fishing nations.
lack of central government has offered a kind of free for all
for big time fishing concerns, with vessels from all corners of
the world using a range of internationally banned methods and
trawlers are no ordinary ships; they are intimidatingly big,
menacingly powerful and capable of not only towing smaller
trawlers but also spacious enough to accommodate a medium sized
aeroplane. They also process tonnes and tonnes of marine
products on board in a single six-hour shift.
Somalis have therefore taken upon themselves to protect their
territorial waters and have taken to hostage taking as a
compiled by Somali researcher Mr. Abdirahman Jama Kulmiye
indicate that foreign owned fishing vessels fish off the Somali
are 300 ships that conduct IUU fishing off the break away
Republic of Puntland Coast and 700 in other fishing grounds
along the Somali Coastline.
target high-grade marine products such as shrimps, lobsters and
demersal fish that fetch high prices in the EU and other
international seafood markets.
trick is to conceal the true identity of the real owners by
registering vessels using FOC and shell companies in Kenya,
turning Kenyan seaports into bases from which shipping
expeditions to the rich fishing grounds of Somali are organized.
in addition to that, the trawler owners hire militiamen to guard
ships while they are within Somali territorial waters.
spite of the militia aboard vessels, the Somali gunmen have
managed to arrest a number of Kenyan fishing vessels with Kenyan
fishers. SAP has documented several such incidents.
1997, pirates pounced on a Kenyan registered Italian owned ship,
the Bahari Hindi, and held it for 45 days at Kismayo, Somalia.
They demanded a US $ 500,000 ransom in order to release a crew
of 36 comprised of Italians, Poles, Kenyans, Romanians,
Tanzanians and Senegalese.
December 2001, the Bahari Kenya, also a Kenyan registered
Italian owned vessel, was held at Elly Port, Somalia for 99
days, with a crew of 33 on board that included Italians,
Kenyans, Romanians, Somalis and Spaniards. This time the ransom
demand was US$ 1 million.
the year 2003, 15 Kenyan, 9 Indonesian, 3 Koreans fishers were
held as hostages aboard the Korean flagged Beira 3 and were
released after six months.
who have come face to face with sea robbery tell chilling tales;
but, driven by the need to earn a living, they have developed a
sense of daredevil.
were caught twice or thrice but are not about to be scared into
captors are always armed with AK 47 assault rifles, bazookas and
rocket- propelled grenade launchers.
first thing the hijackers do is draw the entire fuel from the
also take with them all the fresh food and feed the hijacked
crew with stale food from Somalia.
the ransom negotiations drag on, the captives are normally
beaten and told that if the ransom is not paid they will be
the experience of the hostages is more heart-rending.
say that their captors took control of the vessels before
dismantling their radio communications. And they are put under
constant surveillance as any foreigner is treated as a treasured
item. For hostage taking is a lucrative business in Somalia.
are but a few of Kenyan sailors’ harrowing experiences at the
hands of modern-day buccaneers.
fishing activities in Somalia are contrary to UNCLOS, I ask the
EU to boycott all fish products from Kenya in order to force the
Kenya government to crack down on local fishing companies
operating illegally in Somali waters.
AND LIVING CONDITIONS ABOARD FISHING VESSELS
both developing and industrialized countries, fishing continues
to be one of the most perilous of occupations.
has always been dangerous. Fatality ranges from 150 to 180 per
100,000 workers according to the ILO estimates.
It is believed that safety conditions on fishing vessels are
even worse than statistics reveal because the accidents are
being under-reported. ILO also estimates that more than 24,000
fishers and people engaged in fish farming and processing are
killed every year. Owing to the culture of fear, inhuman
conditions on fishing vessels, such as physical and mental abuse
and even murder, are also under-reported because fishers on
fishing vessels are afraid. SAP’s welfare monitoring survey
done over the last 10 years shows that there are no regular
hours of work, working clothes nor rest periods, and most Kenyan
fishers are underpaid. They earn an average of USD$ 100 per
month, which is far below the USD$ 800 earned by their
crew-mates from other countries.
fishers maintain a culture of fear because they know that if
they complain, they will lose not only their present but
possibly their future jobs.
1983 and 2003 a Senegalese, 16 Tanzanians and 47 Kenyan fishers
lost their lives at sea, while 121 were seriously injured and 37
suffered frost-bitten fingers (see appendix).
are few international instruments regulating safety and welfare
standards on fishing vessels, and there are many shortcomings in
those that exist.
example, international instruments regulating conditions on
fishing vessels have had little ratification to date.
state implementation is subject to broad interpretation of
standards and enforcement.
a few exceptions, the instruments apply to flag-state, not port
is no effective system of port state control in place for
of the conventions cover only those vessels over 24 meters in
length, yet most accidents and deaths occur on vessels smaller
are wide gaps in domestic and international law to adequately
address cases of physical and mental abuse on fishing vessels,
particularly Korean fishing vessels.
addition to deficiencies in existing international instruments,
the international community is failing to address other issues.
example, many flag states are lax in their responsibilities to
exercise effective jurisdiction and control over administrative,
technical and social matters on ships that fly their flags as
required by UNCLOS.
states violate UNCLOS by failing to release crews on ships
detained for fishing violations.
states fail to enforce standards while others like Kenya have no
standard to enforce.
is an urgent and serious need for effective mechanisms to deter
violence, abuses and discrimination on fishing vessels.
is also a need for Flag states to be encouraged to ratify and
implement international instruments relating to fishing vessel
instruments that set existing standards on fishing vessels
should include port state control provisions.
states should require compliance with International instruments
for receiving fishing permits.
should also require compliance with these instruments as a
precondition for P and I and hull insurance cover.
above all, the fishing industry itself should be encouraged to
change its attitude towards fishing vessel safety regulation.
fishing industry must find ways to work with governments and
International Organizations to produce and enforce reasonable
and practical measures to protect the industry’s most valuable
asset: the seafarers on fishing vessels. There is a need of
ratification and implementation of UNCLOS, not only to protect
the seas from pollution but also to manage the ocean’s fishing
stocks effectively and responsibly.
is also a need of implementation of the Food and Agriculture
Organization’s plans of action, the 1995 Code of Conduct for
responsible fisheries and other UN and International
undertakings relating to fish stocks conservation and
management. As I stated earlier there is a need for the EU to
boycott fish and fish products from Kenya so that:
Government may crack down on local fishing companies fishing
illegally in the Western Indian Ocean Region.
Government may come up with a fishing policy.
Kenya may comply
with the ILO and IMO instruments on Seafarers/Fishers’ Welfare
as well as the SOLAS and STCW conventions.
is an urgent need for the EU to boycott all fish products from
Kenya because there is a link between IUU fishing, arms
smuggling and drug trafficking and production in the Western
Indian Ocean Region.
is a need to build up the monitoring capacity in the Western
Indian Ocean Region. I urge the Observatory of Seafarers Rights
to strengthen data gathering, documentation and dissemination to
avoid the current problems of under-reporting.
to say that there is also a need for the ITF to appoint a
competent ITF Inspector at the port of Mombasa so that we can
fight against the FOC and Sub-Standard Shipping in the Western
Indian Ocean Region.
because the type of calling I pursue is muck-raking and
down-to-earth, I have had uneasy relationships with some
government officials, local ship owners, politicians, drug
barons, trade unionists, port chaplains and even ITF Inspectors.
have also received threatening calls from security agents and
local maritime lawyers for exposing their under-table deals in
short-changing the seafarer at the law courts. My works have
brought me a lot of problems from these people, some of whom I
believe are party to criminal activities in the maritime