Kenya has gazetted the Maritime Wage Council under the Labour Institutions Act, 2007 paving the way for better compensation for seafarers.
The government is aiming at resolving the current disparity in wages of Kenyan seafarers and those from other countries who have an established wage standard to ensure that they receive fair pay on services that they render.
Maritime expert Andrew Mwangura said the establishment of the maritime wage standards for seafarers is a milestone towards better employment conditions.
“The forgotten Kenyan seafarers for many years have been underpaid or abandoned by rogue ship owners in the foreign land far away from home. They have also suffered from social dumping caused by Mombasa-based shipping companies,” said Mr Mwangura.
Mr Mwangura said shipping companies in Mombasa have continued to hire immigrants at horrible wage rates, a clever tactic to evade the local labor laws and prop up their profit margins.
“The proposed seamen wage regulation order should focus on matters regarding to minimum wage standards, the Order should also regulate other working conditions for specific categories of seafarers including vacation leave, sick leave and special leave,” he said.
Kenya’s Principal Secretary in charge of the State Department of Shipping and Maritime Affairs Nancy Karigithu said the government is keenly following up on the development of a Wage Standard for the seafarers to ensure they are competitively remunerated, to encourage new entrants to the seafaring profession.
The Constitution of the Wage Council was gazetted last week by the State Department of Labour to implement the remuneration of seafarers.
The standard wage will enable Kenya to meet its obligations under the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 of minimum working and living standards for all seafarers on ships, and will further set fair competition and a level-playing field for owners of ships flying the flags of countries that have ratified the Convention.
The government of Kenya has since championed the ratification of key maritime conventions that will improve the safety and welfare of seafarers.
The government has also prioritised seafarers in receiving Covid-19 vaccines since they are essential workers. The government is also exploring ways of ensuring their access to medical services when the industry is under sharp focus by the health authorities.
“One measure under consideration is to establish a medical clinic for seafarers at the Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA) to cater to the unique needs of seafarers,” Ms Karigithu said.
A steady climb in shipping rates witnessed since March 2020 showed signs of easing this October for the first time in over a year. The freight cost on the busy Shanghai-Los Angeles trade route for a 40-foot container sank by almost $1,000 last week to $11,173, representing a decline of eight percent, which analysts say is the steepest fall since March 2020.
The cost of transporting cargo has dropped to levels last seen in 2009 as transporters continue to grapple with low volumes of freight at the port of Mombasa. The decline in cargo has been attributed to the high cost of shipping, occasioned by a shortage of containers globally, which has seen traders cut down on imports.
The containerised cargo dwell time at the port of Mombasa improved in quarter two of this year but remained below the December 2022 set target, according to Northern Corridor Transport Observatory quarterly report.An analysis by the agency shows that it took cargo an average of three days to be evacuated from the Port of Mombasa in the quarter ending June 2021.