Foreign fishing vessels have invaded Kenya’s Indian Ocean waters after a French company terminated a surveillance contract with the government, exposing the country to billions of shillings worth of losses.
Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), a French-based company, has suspended vessel monitoring services with the Kenyan government citing a Sh16 million arrears accrued for more than ten months.
The lack of surveillance capability has exposed Kenya to a loss of at least 20 million tons of seafood, valued at more than Sh10 billion, this year alone.
A subsidiary of the French Space Agency, CLS has been offering data collection and sea monitoring services to Kenya at the Liwatoni Vessel Monitoring Centre in Mombasa.
Termination of the service left Kenya vulnerable to foreign trawlers since the beginning of this year.
The technology helped to monitor Kenya’s waters in the exclusive economic zone, keeping away foreign trawlers.
Patrol ship grounded
The situation was further complicated after the only patrol ship, Mv Doria, which requires a reported Sh1 million to operate per day, was grounded after the Ministry of Fisheries, Livestock and Agriculture allegedly failed to allocate cash to run the vessel.
“The Vessel Monitoring Centre at Liwatoni Mombasa is not working at the moment. The satellite Machine bought to monitor fishing activities is also currently not working and in the circumstances, we cannot monitor and actually know what is happening in the high seas. Whereas the government may have had a good intention of providing a good environment and facilities for Kenyans to explore the Blue Economy, the management of these facilities has remained largely ineffective...” reads part of a petition tabled in the Senate by Mombasa Senator Mohammed Faki on Friday last week.
Mr Faki says that despite the Fisheries, Livestock and Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya assuring stakeholders in the industry that the government will pay the Sh16 million debt and begin its operations to monitor deep waters against international invasion in August, the status quo remains.
In a previous interview with the Nation, CS Munya said the government has adequate allocation to pay CLS so as to resume offering its monitoring services to Kenya since there are fishing vessels seeking Kenyan resources.
“Sh16 million is little money, we will clear the debt. Those vessels that are here are licensed to fish but, of course, there could be poachers, foreign criminals doing that. We cannot rule out that possibility,” said Mr Munya.
CLS works in sustainable fisheries management, environmental monitoring, maritime surveillance, fleet management, and energy and mining. It processes environmental data and positions from 80,000 beacons per month, ocean and inland waters observations. It also monitors land and sea activities by satellite.
Kenya has been monitoring its waters using Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and the Mv Doria, with assistance from other countries. But with the system failing and a lack of funds to operate Mv Doria, the country relies solely on other countries for monitoring.
The Sh3.5 billion MV Doria is the only vessel available for use by the Kenya Coast Guard Services (KCGS) for monitoring the country’s territory along the Indian Ocean. It was commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta in Mombasa in 2018 has been used only twice due to its high cost of operation.
“The Ocean Patrol Vessel Doria does not go out to sea, she is moored at the Mkunguni Naval. The 54-metre long offshore vessel which operates over a range of more than 1,500 nautical miles off the East coast of Africa requires more than Sh1 million (per day) to cater for 3.5 tons of fuel and amenities of about 12 crew making it expensive for the government,” said a KCGS official.
The vessel’s first assignment was during inauguration of the Lamu port on 20th May, 2021.
She then returned to Mkunguni Naval base where she is moored.
Mv Doria is equipped with Servogear Ecoflow Propulsor, achieving a speed of 35.9 knots. It also has a deck on the back that can accommodate a five-ton helicopter.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has withdrawn a fishing certificate for six Chinese-owned vessels after its Kenyan crew raised concerns over mistreatment while working on the vessels.
KMA Head of Commercial Shipping, John Omingo, said KMA deregistered the vessels following complaints from Kenyan crew.
Tens of Kenyan-registered seafarers working in Chinese vessels within Kenyan waters last week raised concerns over torture and mistreatment; including being forced to engage in illegal businesses in the ocean.