BY ANDREW MWANGURA
President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to launch Kenya’s proposed maritime academy that will replace the Kenya Ports Authority-owned Bandari College mid-this month (June).
This comes barely three months after the President appointed Prof Muragu Kinandu as the chair of would-be Bandari Maritime Academy board for a period of three years starting May 3, 2019.
According to a gazette notice issued on November 16, last year, the institution shall “be an institution of excellence in teaching, training, scholarship, innovation and research in maritime skills”.
Sea training world-wide is always a vital stage in forming the future officers who will hold responsible positions as officers in the merchant, port managers, cruise and exploratory vessels.
Countries that fail to develop and sustain Maritime Education and Training (MET) are likely to lag behind in building a pool of such important and much sought professionals.
The reality is that for years Kenya has not been consistent in training seafarers, Fish workers and other maritime professionals.
Although Kenya started sea training back in 1951 with the establishment of the Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education (MIOME), now the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM), the training program collapsed until recently when new efforts to revive it started.
An integral part of the programs for Sea Training is to ensure that the students acquire practical knowledge through actual work experience. One has to learn by doing while at sea and in port.
The Sea cadets are expected to have the ability to accumulate a lot of experience in the shortest time possible through fast and wide learning process.
During their first academic semesters they are expected to accumulate theoretical knowledge in the basic studies, and actually to see the same worked out in practice and applied to the reality of ship’s operations.
In order to produce a high quality of merchant mariners there is a need to have a highly sophisticated training ship.
Such a facility must have all it takes to offer apprentice ship for marine deck and engineering officers in accordance with the latest international standards set for sea training.
Early next year a first batch of 50 young men and women are expected to undergo a diploma course on nautical sciences and diploma course on marine engineering at the Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA) with more students expected to enroll in the future.
OFF-SHORE GAS AND OIL INDUSTRY
The off-shore gas and oil industry, which is one of the few sectors that require reliable supply of competent marine labour, has invested heavily in marine education and training (MET).
Since the Gas and Oil companies participate in formulating the STCW minimum mandatory MET standards, they should partner with Bandari Maritime Academy to establish various tailor-made and oil-sector specific curriculums, which normally should exceed the minimum statutory requirements.
Jumuiya ya Kaunti za Pwani and Bandari Maritime Academy must build a strong connection with the industry to know its needs.
Such training needs will obviously include offshore platform operations, dynamic position system (DPS), helicopter evacuations, chemical and dangerous goods endorsements (International Maritime Dangerous Goods-IMDG Code), liquid cargo handling operations, specialized advanced marine oil pollution prevention, among others.
While the marine companies that may partner with Bandari Maritime Academy will normally contribute training resources to ensure the output satisfies their specific needs, the shipping companies on the other hand should provide the crucial apprenticeship opportunities aboard their vessels for marine cadets.
Given the emerging job opportunities in Kenya’s off-shore oil and gas exploitation, Kenya needs to streamline the recruitment and training of seafarers so that they can take up the opportunities.
According to the International Chamber of Shipping, African seafarers are less than 25,000 out of the world’s 1.5 million seafarers.
South Africa has only 1,500 seafarers while numbers from Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria combined are much lower than that!
The continent of Africa has a long way to go catch up with advanced maritime nations. For long many have viewed seafarer job as unimportant and for the uneducated, but this erroneous view could be denying the African continent as a whole a great economic opportunity.
However, it is pleasing to note that the African Governments and Maritime authorities have recently demonstrated their need to work together towards developing the current maritime labor market.
This would involve adopting a continental approach to the African maritime industry, as captured in the African Maritime Transport Charter, and liaising with the maritime organizations, recognized all over the world.
Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa have been championing project to address education, training and safety needs of the seafarers.
As they do that they may also address the gender issue; women represent between 1 and 2 per cent of the world’s 1.5 million seafarers serving on some 87,000 ships.
There is need to establish a Think Tank to be hosted at the Bandari Maritime Academy with the mission to carry out research, studies, analyses and forecasting regarding short-and-long-term horizons for a wide range of issues related to various national and international phenomena that may affect the development process of the Coastal communities.
Among other things, the institute should be a meeting place for exchange among those with different skills, experiences, and technical capabilities and a structure for building understanding and consensus among the intellectual elite on the important questions and serious challenges facing the Coastal community at home and in Diaspora.
This institute can be funded by the government with the support of Coastal counties to show ownership and other donors such as the Open Society Foundations, TK Foundation and the Nippon Foundation among others.
For the institute to be vibrant it will require sponsorship from philanthropists with a bias to maritime industry, private companies dealing directly or indirectly with the industry and international maritime organisations.
Through full-time researchers, part-time researchers and experiential maritime experts, the institute will grow faster in the maritime scholarship through networking with other renowned maritime universities worldwide.
If the proposed academy is given all the attention it requires and is entrusted to maritime practitioners and professionals who have the development of the sector at heart, it will definitely hold a great economic promise for Kenya and rejuvenate its vision on blue economy.