Hello Cyprian Nyakundi,
Below is an investigative report conducted by well-meaning seafarers on the sad state of affairs at Bandari Maritime Academy (Formerly Bandari College) – the only seafarer training institution in Kenya.
We request you publish the report on your popular blog to illuminate the untold suffering of Kenyan seafarers and trainees and parents.
Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA) has since 6th January 2020 (now over two years) been conducting unapproved training and issuing worthless certificates to innocent Kenyan seafarers. International Maritime Conventions applicable in Kenya and the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009, require every seafarer training institution and every training programme to be approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA).
However, through utter negligence and dereliction of duty, BMA management and other relevant public officers have failed to ensure the institution is approved. The consequences of the unapproved and illegal training at Bandari are grave and many. For instance, (a) the certificates issued by Bandari Maritime Academy are worthless and unlawful (b) Kenyan parents, seafarers, and international donors have lost money, totalling over 100 million, paid directly to Bandari Maritime Academy for tuition and accommodation (c) Shipowners are now terminating the employment of Kenyan seafarers who received their training at Bandari Maritime Academy from January 2020 (d) the International Maritime Organisation will highly likely blacklist Kenya’s seafarer training thereby rendering Kenyan seafarers unemployable.
The report presents credible and incontrovertible evidence showing that BMA and KMA are currently conducting unapproved training. Sector experts conducted this investigation upon receiving complaints from students pained by the current situation. The report is not intended to score political points or malign any person. For this reason, the report does not name the responsible public officers; it refers only to their office. The report was made in the public interest. It is intended to illuminate the plight of young Kenyan trainees whose parents spent – and continue to spend – their hard-earned money on worthless and unlawful training at BMA. Ultimately, we hope and pray that the current or next Government will take appropriate action to address the grave concerns raised in the report.
We thank you most sincerely.
Kenyan seafarers trained at and issued certificates by Bandari Maritime Academy (Formerly known as Bandari College) from 6thJanuary 2020 to date are holding worthless certificates. As a result, the seafarers have lost their hard-earned wages paid to Bandari Maritime Academy as fees for tuition and training, an amount currently estimated to total just over Kenya Shillings 122 million.
Bandari Maritime Academy (BMA) has for two years now been conducting seafarer training without the mandatory approval of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA). The IMO through KMA on 5th January 2016 vide certificate No. KMA/COA/2016/001 approved Bandari College to conduct 25 seafarer courses. The certificate was valid for 4 years and expired on 6th January 2020. See ANNEX 1: BMA’s Current Expired Certificate of Approval
Per the copy of the said certificate of approval, IMO through KMA approved Bandari College to conduct the following seafarer courses: (a) Diploma in Marine Engineering, (b) Ship Security Officer, (c) Diploma in Nautical Science, (d) Security Awareness Training, (e) Craft in Marine Engineering, (f) Security Training for seafarers with Designated Security Duties, (g) Craft in Nautical Science, (h) Tanker Familiarization, (i) Personal Survival Techniques, (j) Master, Near Coastal Voyage Updating Course, (k) Fire Prevention and Firefighting, (l) Chief Engineer Updating Course, Near Coastal Voyage, (m) Medical Care, (n) Elementary First Aid, (o) Able Seafarer Deck Updating course, (p) Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities, (q) Able Seafarer Engine Updating course, (r) Basic Safety Refresher Training, (s) Rating forming part of Navigational Watch Updating course, (t) Proficiency in Survival Craft other than Fast Rescue Boats, (u) Rating forming part of Engineering Watch Updating course, (v) Advanced Fire Fighting, (w) Coxswain Course, (x) Medical First Aid, (y) Chief Engineer Updating Course, Port Operation.
On 9th October 2010, the hamstrung and out-of-depth BMA’s Director (acting) made a half-hearted attempt to understand his job; he wrote a letter to the KMA Director-General (DG) wondering what he had to do to get the institution approved. See ANNEX 2: BMA’s Director’s Letter to KMA’s DG dated 9 October 2020
The news that BMA for two years to date conducted unapproved seafarer education and training will shock the estimated 1,300 Kenyan seafarers and youth who trained and those currently training at the institution.
IMO, to which Kenya is a member state, is the UN specialised agency that regulates global seafarer training. The IMO requires every seafarer training course or programme, every seafarer training institution, and every seafarer training instructor or lecturer, to comply with the stringent training and examination standards set by the IMO in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers Convention (STCW Convention). Kenya has acceded to the STCW Convention in 1992 and domesticated it under the Merchant Shipping Act, 2009 and the Merchant Shipping (Training and Certification) Regulations, 2016(“STCW Training Regulations”).
Hence, BMA and indeed every Kenyan seafarer training institution must hold a valid certificate of approval, issued by KMA on behalf of IMO. Such approval certifies that BMA has the required training facilities and equipment; BMA’s instructors/trainers/lecturers are properly qualified; every course/programme syllabus and examination criteria are per IMO’s STCW standards enacted in the STCW Training Regulations.
BMA’s lack of a valid certificate of approval and its unapproved training courses means that every seafarer training course the academy conducted from 6th January 2020 to date is unlawful. Similarly, every certificate BMA issued to seafarers is invalid and worthless.
The consequences of BMA’s unapproved training are grave, for the seafarers, the local shipping sector, and the country.
The first and immediate consequence of BMA’s unapproved training: the Certificates issued by Bandari Maritime Academy and Kenya Maritime Authority are unlawful and worthless.
The invalid certificates issued by BMA and KMA to unsuspecting and innocent seafarers now place in great jeopardy the jobs of hundreds of Kenyan seafarers working on board ships operating in Kenya and internationally. Indeed, in March 2021, the owner of an offshore supply vessel (OSV) registered in Panama and working in the Gulf region wrote to Middle East Ship Crewing LLC (MESC LLC), a Dubai-based seafarers recruitment agency, questioning and complaining about the competence and work performance of some 14 Kenyan sailors MESC LLC had recruited and placed to work onboard the OSV. MESC LLC investigated the shipowner’s complaint both onboard the OSV and ashore and recorded the following findings:
“(1) All the 14 seafarers hold “Certificate of Course Completion” issued by Bandari Maritime Academy for the various training undertaken between January – December 2020.” (2) All the 14 seamen variously hold STCW “Certificate of Competence” and “Certificate of Proficiency”, issued by Kenya Maritime Authority January – December 2020. (3) Kenya Maritime Authority issued on 6 January 2016 to Bandari Maritime Academy (then known as Bandari College) the Certificate of Approval No. KM/COA/2016/001 to conduct the various STCW training listed in the said approval certificate. (4) “The Certificate of Approval Kenya Maritime Authority issued to Bandari Maritime Academy expired on 5 January 2020. (5) “Bandari Maritime Academy has, since 5 January 2020 to date, conducted unapproved STCW training. (6) “Between February – November 2020, Bandari Maritime Academy conducted unapproved STCW training for the said 14 Kenyan seamen, among other seamen it trained. (7) Bandari Maritime Academy does not currently have and has never had the capacity (i.e., the facilities and properly qualified trainers and assessors) to conduct and examine the training of STCW Proficiency in Survival Craft and Rescue Boats, other than Fast Rescue Boats (PSCRB) under STCW Convention Regulation VI/2 and STCW Code section A-VI/2. Yet, it conducts the PSCRB training and issues each trainee/student a “Certificate of completion” in PSCRB, the basis of which Kenya Maritime Authority issues the STCW Certificates. (8) “Bandari Maritime Academy does not currently have and has never had the capacity (i.e., the facilities and properly qualified trainers and assessors) to conduct and examine STCW Advanced Fire Fighting (AFF) training under STCW Convention Regulation VI/3 and STCW Code section A-VI/3. Yet, it conducts the AFF training and issues each trainee/student a “Certificate of Completion” in AFF, the basis of which Kenya Maritime Authority issues the STCW Certificates. (9) “Kenya Maritime Authority has since 6 January 2020 to date (April 2021) been issuing STCW Certificates based on the unapproved invalid training conducted by Bandari Maritime Academy. (10) “Kenya conducted in March 2015 the mandatory STCW Independent Evaluation under the STCW Convention Regulation I/8 and the STCW Code section A-I/8.3; an evaluation needed for IMO’s whitelisting. (11) “The shipowner’s concerns about the competence and work performance of the said 14 Kenyan seamen were wholly justified.”
Subsequently, MESC LLC concluded its investigation report as follows:
“The shipowner’s concerns about the competence and work performance of the said 14 Kenyan seamen were wholly justified. The root cause of the reported deficient standard of competence and dismal work performance of the 14 Kenyan seamen onboard the OSV, as reported by the shipowner, is the quality of training and examination the said 14 Kenyan seamen received at Bandari Maritime Academy between January – September 2020. Resulting from our findings, we assess that the various unapproved and unregulated training, examination, and certification Bandari Maritime Academy conducted for the said 14 Kenyan seamen must have been below par. This negatively impacted their standard of competence resulting in below-par work performance onboard.”
The OSV shipowner was concerned the standard of competence and work performance of the 14 Kenyan sailors onboard his ship had serious implications on the ship’s operations, ship safety and security, and protection of the marine environment. He was also concerned that the invalid training portended serious risks and consequences on the ship’s marine insurance (hull, machinery, and P&I) and exposed him to liability. Hence, the shipowner in April 2021 terminated the employment of 14 Kenyan seafarers.
The IMO keeps a list (“White List”) of IMO member states (countries) that have confirmed to the IMO, through passing periodic IMO audits, to be strictly implementing the requirements of the STCW Convention. The current “White List” is published by the IMO in document MSC.1/Circ.1163/Rev.12.
A country’s listing in the IMO “White List” is significant because the IMO “White List” is the basis upon which one ‘Whitelisted’ country enters an Agreement with another “Whitelisted” country, mutually agreeing to accept and recognise the certificates issued by either country. The said Agreement is mandatory under the STCW Convention. The Agreement allows seafarers from one Party to the Agreement to be employed onboard ships registered by the other Party and vice-versa.
IMO “Whitelisted” Kenya in 2010 following IMO’s thorough and satisfactory audit of the then Bandari College (now Bandari Maritime Academy). A country must pass an IMO audit conducted every five years to keep its status in the said IMO “White List”. Hence, after 2010, the IMO subsequently audited Bandari College in 2015, upon which Kenya kept her “White List” status because Bandari College passed the said audit. Kenya completely depends on Bandari Maritime Academy to pass the IMO audit to keep its IMO “White List” status. This is because Bandari Maritime Academy is currently the only Kenyan seafarer training institution that can conduct IMO-level internationally accepted seafarer training. Bandari Maritime Academy is Kenya’s only source of seafarers and its current deplorable state must worry every well-meaning Kenyan.
The next IMO “White List” audit of Bandari College was to be conducted in May 2020, but it had not been conducted as of January 2022 ostensibly because both Bandari Maritime Academy and KMA were both ‘not ready’ due to Covid-19. Kenya’s status on the “White List” is facing a clear and present danger due to the inactions of BMA, KMA, and the State Department for Shipping and Maritime. Now IMO’s blacklisting looms large.
BMA’s and KMA’s current state of utter deterioration is stunningly different from the days both institutions passed the IMO “White List” audit in 2010 and 2015. Both institutions would certainly fail the IMO audit were it held today or soon – the actions required to right the wrongs are significant and time-consuming. Consequently, BMA and KMA stand to imperil Kenya’s dwindling hopes of keeping its IMO “White List” status.
Kenyan seafarers will not be employed by any shipowner, whether locally or internationally, should the IMO blacklist Kenya and remove the country from the “Whitelist”. The Kenyan seafarer will be a product without a market.
Indeed, MESC LLC on 5th April 2021 wrote to the IMO seeking IMO’s clarification on the validity and legal standing of the STCW certificates issued by KMA and Bandari Maritime Academy based on unapproved, and hence, illegal, training.
See ANNEX 3: A Copy the Letter MESC LLC Wrote to IMO’s Secretary-general, dated 5th April 2021
IMO responded to MESC LLC stating in part:
“Any training institution providing a training course under the authority of a Party to the STCW Convention for certification of seafarers in accordance with the STCW Convention should be recognized by the Party. Any certificate or documentary evidence issued by a non-recognized training institution should not be deemed to be issued under the authority of a Party to the Convention.”
See in ANNEX 4: A Copy of IMO’s email reply to MESC LLC dated 5th April 2021
IMO’s response to MESC LLC was simply communicating two things:
a. First, Bandari Maritime Academy must be approved to conduct seafarer training.
b. Second, every certificate issued by the unapproved Bandari Maritime Academy and Kenya Maritime Authority based on BMA’s unapproved training is invalid and should not be used to hire seafarers.
No doubt IMO is aware that Kenya is currently conducting unapproved seafarer training. IMO must be contemplating measures to protect global shipping from Kenya’s unapproved training and contamination certificates. The current situation does not bode well for Kenya’s “White List’ status with IMO’s blacklisting imminent.
The third consequence of BMA’s unapproved training: Shipowners and seafarers placement agencies will forthwith cease hiring Kenyan seafarers.
MESC LLC sought clarification from the IMO on Bandari Maritime Academy’s and KMA’s liability for any tortious claims should the OSV shipowner sue MESC LLC following the Kenyan seafarers’ debacle. IMO said that such a matter would be best addressed by the country that registered the OSV.
Hence, MESC LLC on 9th April 2021 wrote to the Administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority seeking clarification on, among others:
a. Whether Panama recognises the training the unapproved Bandari Maritime Academy conducted for the Kenyan seafarers it had recruited to work on the Panama-flagged OSV.
b. Whether Panama accepts the certificates KMA issued to the Kenyan seafarers based on seafarer training and examination conducted by the unapproved Bandari Maritime Academy.
c. The liability of Panama Maritime Authority given its recognition of certificates issued by the unapproved Bandari Maritime Authority and KMA.
See in ANNEX 4: A Copy MESC LLC’s email to the Administrator of Panama Maritime Authority, dated 9th April 2021
Panama Maritime Authority’s reply on 21st April 2021 was unequivocal and like IMO’s: that Panama does not accept STCW certificates issued by an unapproved training centre (institution). In the case of the Kenyan seafarers onboard the Panama-registered OSV, Panama Maritime Authority said that they must undertake training in an approved training centre.
See in ANNEX 4: A Copy Panama Maritime Authority’s Ms Maria Fernanda’s email reply to MESC LLC, dated 15th April 2021
See in ANNEX 4: A Copy Panama Maritime Authority’s Eng. Jose Espinosa’s reply to MESC LLC, dated 21st April 2021
Following the Panama clarification, the shipowner had to terminate the contracts of the 14 Kenyan seafarers.
See ANNEX 5: A Copy of MESC LLC’s email to Blue Marlin Shipping LLC, dated 21st April 2021
Panama and Kenya in November 2017 signed an agreement to mutually recognise and accept each other’s STCW certificates and allow Kenyan seafarers to work onboard Panama registered ships. The Kenya-Panama Agreement recognises Bandari College as the only Kenyan seafarer training institution. The said agreement is now greatly jeopardised by BMA’s brazen disregard – with the acquiescence of KMA – of the STCW Convention and Merchant Shipping Act requirement to conduct approved seafarer training. Kenya and Jamaica signed a similar agreement in December 2020.
Both the OSV owner and MESC LLC lost huge sums of money. Due to the close-knit nature of the ship crewing business, it is now highly likely Kenyan seafarers trained at Bandari Maritime Academy cannot be employed in the Middle East. This emphasises the age-old shipowners’ preference for Tanzanian seafarers trained at the stellar Dar es Salaam Maritime Institute, over Kenyan seafarers trained at Bandari College.
The fourth consequence of BMA’s unapproved training: Kenya has failed to achieve its Vision 2030 blue economy target to produce 4,000 seafarers by the end of 2022.
Following the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference held in Nairobi in November 2018, the decision was made to transform the then Bandari College into a centre of excellence for seafarer training. Thousands of youths from the Coast and Nyanza would benefit because of their geographic and traditional disposition to sailing.
The transformation included, among others, delinking and separating Bandari College from the Kenya Ports Authority (who owned it), the name change (to Bandari Maritime Academy). The President in July 2019, while commissioning the new Bandari Maritime Academy said, “The Academy is expected to become a top supplier of world-class seafarers for shipping lines all over the world.” Bandari Maritime Academy was then tasked under the Vision 2030’s Sector Plan for the Blue Economy 2018-2022 to train 4,000 youth as seafarers under a programme known as Vijana Baharia.
BMA, KMA, and the State Department for Shipping and Maritime have failed the task. It takes upwards of 4 years to train a seafarer cadet to qualify as an officer who can competently work onboard a ship. Yet, with only 11 months left for the Blue Economy Sector Plan to lapse, Bandari Maritime Academy has never qualified a single cadet. Bandari Maritime Academy has since 2010 played Russian roulette with trainee seafarers.
Perhaps recognising this utter failure and as an indictment of the responsible public agencies and officials, the President on 17thDecember 2021 while commissioning the new Kenya Shipyard Limited in Mombasa, chose to alter course. He directed the Cabinet Secretary of the National Treasury and Planning and the Head of the Ocean and Blue Economy Office to “immediately convene and coordinate all the relevant agencies of government to deliver a comprehensive national seafarers training programme that is designed to produce at least 4,000 suitably qualified seafarers.” Previously, this was the responsibility of the State Department for Shipping and Maritime.
Knowledgeable sources informed this writer that since “Whitelisting” in 2010, Bandari College/Bandari Maritime Academy has admitted more than 700 students to programmes (diploma in marine engineering and diploma in nautical science) and yet only one student has qualified to the level he can work onboard as an officer. The nautical science programme is yet to qualify a single student. We established that many students become disenfranchised and disappointed due to a lack of instructors and training facilities and eventually drop out. But Bandari Maritime Academy is not the only culprit. The Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) has since 2013 been conducting seafarer education and training without IMO’s and KMA’s approval. It is no surprise, therefore, that none of the more than 500 seafarer students who have been admitted at TUM has ever qualified. Similarly, out of the more than 300 JKUAT students who completed the 5-year BSc Marine Engineering programme, only one has qualified to work onboard a ship as a marine engineering officer. In short, seafarer training in Kenya is a travesty riddled with a litany of woes. And the public officials responsible continue to commit gross injustice against innocent youth and parents, selling the false hope of a new dawn in seafarer training.
So, what ails Kenya’s seafarer training in general and specifically Bandari Maritime Academy? There are five (5) fundamental issues that impede Kenya’s seafarer training (a) First, Bandari Maritime Academy is operating under a misplaced institutional framework; (b) Second, Bandari Maritime Academy’s management is not fit-for-purpose; (c) Third, the Board of Directors of Bandari Maritime Academy is moribund and unable to provide the required strategic leadership; (d) Fourth, Kenya Maritime Authority, the industry regulator, is currently in terminal decline; (e) Fifth, the policy leadership – vested in the State Department for Shipping and Maritime – is absent and clueless and interested only in self-preservation.
The manifestation of these fundamental issues is the fact that Bandari Maritime Academy lacks qualified and approved teaching staff, lacks the appropriate training facilities, and is unbothered conducting unapproved training for two years now. And now the IMO may soon kick Kenya out of the IMO Whitelisting. The increase in the number of boat accidents in Lake Victoria and along the Coast may be easily attributed to lax regulation and enforcement, but the biggest culprit is the substandard coxswain training the boat operators receive at Bandari .”
Bandari Maritime Academy, KMA, and the State Department for Shipping and Maritime have jointly and separately grossly neglected their solemn duty to ensure Kenya’s seafarer training is approved and up to IMO’s mandatory standards. In so doing, they committed great injustice against an economic crime against Kenyan seafarers. They must be held accountable. Similarly, seafarers who trained at Bandari Maritime Academy from 6th January 2020 should, through Court action, compel the BMI to refund their tuition and examination fees.
The following are some of the recommended actions, in hierarchical order, required to cure the fundamental issues generally impeding seafarer training.
Reshaping the policy formulation and strategic thinking by injecting new blood into the State Department for Shipping and Maritime to recalibrate and energise seafarer training policy formulation and strategizing. Fact, logic, experience, and wisdom dictate that new wine must not be carried in an old wineskin.
Going back to the basics and refocusing officer and rating training because BMA’s transformation was intended to mass-produce properly trained and qualified seafarers; that is, seafarers in the real sense of the word – ships officers and ratings – navigators and engineers. However, the desire to go for the ‘low hanging fruit’ has seen the focus shift to ship’s hotel staff e.g., chefs, cooks, stewards, swimming pool attendants, etc. Effort must now focus on producing ships officers and rating while complementing these with ships hotel staff.
Placing Bandari Maritime Academy in the correct institutional framework by either (1) Placing BMA under the Ministry of Education, State Department for Vocational and Technical Training, similar to every technical institution, where it will receive sound policy and strategic direction and management. Currently, the institution is set up as a State Corporation with a Board of Directors that is gobbling much needed but scarce financial resources in unfruitful Board meetings, international benchmarking tours, and unending hotel meetings/talk shops, or (2) Reverting BMA to Kenya Ports Authority and elevate to the level of a KPA Division where BMA’s Director would be at the same level as a General Manager, reporting directly to the MD. Under such an institutional framework, BMA should have a separate Board of Management comprising the relevant industry cadres. It must be noted that when under KPA, BMA received budgetary support of over 600 million annually for operations and maintenance and had in FY 2017/2018 set aside 1.5 billion to transform the institution. Since its 2018 re-establishment as BMA, the institution is unable to convince the National Assembly to appropriate sufficient funds for its development. This proposed alternative institutional framework is indeed a bitter pill to swallow, and yet it is necessary to accept that an honest mistake was made to delink Bandari from KPA, cutting off the vital umbilical cord.
Hiring suitably qualified management staff and instructors where BMA should preferably be headed by a mariner. The current Director (acting), a good man, is out of his depth and a stranger in Jerusalem. BMA must also hire suitably qualified and approved Heads of Departments, instructors and lecturers. However, Kenya does not have such suitably qualified persons and BMA has resorted to contracting, on a part-time basis, mediocre and unapproved persons as instructors/lecturers.
Reforming KMA to conduct robust regulation of training standards because KMA is a regulator in terminal decline caused by, among other reasons, members of its Board of Directors – KMA’s the governing organ – who are not fit-for-purpose; the current Director-General, a game warden by training and experience, is incompetent and performing dismally, and he’s now dragging KMA into a vast savannah; a demoralised and despondent staff. Hence, those responsible must appoint a new Board of Directors; hire a new Director-General who knows – or can learn – what needs to be done; address the issues causing staff despondency.
In the meantime, Bandari Maritime Academy must not admit new students; also, it should defer its current training until it obtains IMO’s and KMA’s approval.
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