Owners of vessels operating in Kenyan waters have 11 days to register them or face legal action, the maritime authority has warned.
“Vessel owners are advised to take necessary measures to ensure compliance by 30th August to avoid being exposed to legal sanctions as set out in the Merchant Shipping Act,” the Kenya Maritime Authority director-general Nancy Karigithu said in a press notice.
“For security reasons, it is important that we know who owns what vessel and the sort of business they do with them just like it is a requirement for vehicles,” she said.
Ms Karigithu said her officials were collecting data that would be analysed for use by authority in order to efficiently implement its mandate in safety, security and pollution control in the country’s waters.
“If we know where boats are concentrated, then we will be able to design programmes and allocate resources for pollution control,” she said.
The regulator has contracted Prestige Management Solutions, a consultancy firm, to carry out a national water vessels survey that would establish how many boats operate on the coast, lakes and rivers countrywide.
The census comes in the wake of security concerns along the Kenyan coast, where boats are used in illegal trade including smuggling of goods and drug trafficking.
The Kenyan coastline is dotted with jetties from where private yachts operate, most of which are used by drug dealers.
According to East Africa Seafarers Assistance Programme coordinator Andrew Mwangura, pirates use unregistered vessels for their activities since they have no records. (READ: Indian navy destroys pirate boat as more ships taken)
“Some of the boats used in piracy come from Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar where they are safely hidden and are hired when there is an assignment. The census will assist in identifying these boats,” he said.
“Drug dealers find it convenient when they operate with yachts since nobody will track them. Lack of registration of these vessels has facilitated illicit trade,” he added.
The last watercraft census was in 2008, but due to the post-election violence, some areas could not be accessed and the data obtained was not adequate, Ms Karigithu said.
The survey by the Institution Development Management established that there were about 19,050 vessels operating in Kenya waters and found that the operators were not adequately trained to operate them.
“Of these vessels, only four per cent have certified staff, with just 8.7 per cent of the 55,530 local workers on the vessels having undergone any form of recognised training,” the report said, adding that there was a serious shortage of trained workers in the sector.
In the new survey, boat owners would be required to disclose details on age of a vessel, skills of crew members, where it operates and the type of work it is engaged in.
Mr Karigithu said the authority would also liaise with other sectors, including tourism and fisheries, with a view to improving the way boat owners operate.
“If the boats are insured, operators may even seek funding from financial institutions to improve their businesses,” she said.
The census would also assist the authority in identifying training needs for the crew, Mr Mwangura said, noting that lack of training is to blame for some of the boating accidents in Kenya.