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Good tidings for shipping industry as Kenyan maritime waters off high-risk list

Good tidings for shipping industry as Kenyan maritime waters off high-risk list

Kenyan maritime waters in the Indian Ocean have now been re-designated from the High-Risk Area (HRA) by the global shipping industry.

The latest development will save Kenya and East Africa millions of dollars in insurance and security expenses.

In a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decision by the BMP 5 - Best Management Practices (BMP-5) has been communicated to the London-based 174-member International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations agency responsible for improving safety and security of global shipping.

The removal of Kenyan waters from High-Risk Area (HRA) list followed a heightened campaign by Kenya to end labelling of its waters as high risk, which made shipping prohibitively expensive and threatened the nascent blue economy.

The Kenyan maritime waters were designated as high risk in 2009 by BMP-5, which comprise five largest global shipping industry associations namely including International Association of Dry Cargo Ship Owners (INTERCARGO), International Association of Independent Tank Owners (INTERTANKO), International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).

Others are Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and Baltic and International Maritime Council (BIMCO).

This followed increased incidents of piracy in the Indian Ocean, including in Kenyan maritime waters.

"The consequence of that designation of Kenyan maritime waters as HRA was an increase in maritime insurance premium for cargo destined for the port of Mombasa, as well as increased labour cost for seafarers aboard such ships due to high risk of piracy attacks," read the statement.

During the moment when the waters were interfered by piracy, cargo ships destined for Mombasa took longer routes, beyond 300 nautical miles from the Indian Ocean coastline, to avoid encountering pirates, while other cargo ships hired private security.

But on October 22, 2018, the Kenya Coast Guard Service (KCGS) a specialised maritime force, was formed for enforcement of law on national waters, including on the oceans, lakes and rivers.

The impact of the force that increased surveillance and joint maritime patrols and the Kenya Navy within the Kenyan maritime waters have resulted in significant reduction in piracy incidents, with no piracy incidents recorded since 2017.

"Kenya lauds the BMP-5 for their decision and cooperation during the intense engagements which resulted in re-designation of Kenya maritime waters to reflect improved security. This decision frees Kenya from what had become a major restriction to the shipping industry, it also frees the rest of East Africa, and drastically lowers costs of supplies from all over the world," read the statement.

It added; "Kenya remains aware of security challenges in the Horn of Africa region and the Gulf of Aden and will remain vigilant and continue working with other security players such as EUNAVFOR Atlanta, to prevent re-emergence of piracy."

Apart from Kenya, regional countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan who depend on the port of Mombasa for both their exports and imports will also benefit from reduction of maritime insurance, thereby resulting in increased competitiveness of their products.

Nancy Karigithu, the Principal Secretary, State Department for Shipping and Maritime Affairs and High Commissioner to the UK Manoah Esipisu and Permanent Representative to the IMO, have led Kenya's negotiating team over the past 18 months, with strategic guidance from the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee (NDICC).

President Uhuru Kenyatta has remained committed to supporting the blue economy.

He says Kenya has prioritised sustainable utilisation of its ocean and blue economy resources as an enabler of the Vision 2030 economic blueprint.

According to the president, it is clear that the ocean economy is a smart investment that can deliver social, economic and environmental benefits.

"Kenya is keen to fully realise the potential of its 142,400 square kilometre Exclusive Economic Zone. However, as we do so, we will steadfastly protect our marine resources even as we pursue its enhanced development and productivity," the president said last year.

He launched the New Ocean Action Agenda, an offshoot of a similar global plan by the fourteen-nation High-Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy.