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Kenya’s seafarers seek state support to work abroad

The Seafarers Union of Kenya has appealed to the government to support thousands of seafarers who are to be employed in global shipping lines, but are unable to prepare for the journey due to financial constraint.

At least 4,500 Kenyans have landed jobs with international shipping lines with some already working abroad and others yet to join.

Addressing the media Thursday, the Union’s Secretary General Steven Owaki said that one seafarer needs at least Sh.150, 000 to prepare for the journey but some are unable to raise the amount.

Owaki said that one cohort recruited in June failed to travel because they had no money to fund the requirements of the journey.

He noted that the salary scale for a seafarer working in an international ship is about Sh.100, 000, thus asking the government to lend them money as there is a guarantee of paying back.

“We thank the government for getting into partnership with different shipping lines to create jobs under the blue economy sector, however, in order for this dream to become a reality to us let the government intervene and facilitate the seafarers where need be,” he said.

Chairman of the Union Joseph Kaemba echoed the sentiments saying that the programme that started in 2018 has been going on well with the country targeting to employ over 20,000 Kenyans by 2023.

Kaemba said the blue economy sector, if well managed well, will help greatly in the revival of the economy.

He has asked the government to intervene and take action against those people maliciously conversing and, in the process, sabotaging the recruitment process.

The union representative said that some members have written to the shipping companies abroad and complained of discrimination in the recruitment process, which the leadership of the union strongly condemned.

“Seamen union wants the government to take serious actions against those people said to have written to shipping companies abroad advising them on matters that could be tabled within the union. This move has resulted in halting the recruitment process that was aimed to happen this December up to next year,” said Kaemba.

He added that cooperation between the seafarers and government is crucial as it will stop interference from external sources that might cost them opportunities yet they are expecting mass recruitment come next year.

“We can reach our target of employing even 100,000 people by 2023, this is possible if we do not bad mouth this course,” he said.

He further appealed to members to support the candidacy of former Principal Secretary Shipping and Maritime Nancy Karigithu as the Secretary General for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) saying the country will have made a major milestone in the sector if the seat is won by a Kenyan.

“The recognition that we are looking for at international level will be on a silver platter because we believe she will represent the country well. Even scholarships and sea time opportunities will be available in an easier way,” he added.

Harris Kiproto 38 years old from Kilifi County who is employed to join MAC shipping company said he is excited and grateful for the opportunity that has come as a way out to grappling poverty he was struggling with.

Kiproto works as a hotelier in the hospitality industry and he later joined the maritime sector for greener pastures.

“The experience in the ship and the salary is a great honor, we are ready for the challenge too, nothing comes easy,” he said.

Rita Ruwa, 23years said that the monetary support from Kenya Commercial Bank that signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with Kenya Maritime Authority came in handy as she had no money to support the course.

She urged local leaders to mobilize youths of the opportunities available in the sector saying she came to know of it through her area MCA.

An elderly person Omar Gakurya who also got an opportunity to work under the programme thanked the government for considering them.

By Chari Suche

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