Thousands of Kenyans to fill seafarer jobs in global ships

Thousands of Kenyans are set to be employed as seafarers in global shipping lines. This comes barely two years after the government entered a partnership with different shipping lines to create jobs under the blue economy sector.

In the next two weeks, the government intends to recruit 2,000 youths across the country with the first cohort of 805 already recruited, and are set to work in Royal Caribbean Cruises.

“In the next five years, Kenya intends to recruit 15,000 youth to not only work in cruise ships but also container ships, oil tankers, loose cargoes and fishing vessels because these are high yielding jobs,” said Shipping and Maritime Principal Secretary Nancy Karigithu.

The head of the Oceans and Blue Economy General (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe said the government will support and encourage Royal Caribbean, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and all other cruise ships to open new crew manning offices in Kenya to recruit the youth. Recruitment in Nairobi is set to begin this week.

“It is because of these interventions and commitment by the State and good performance of the young people who have preceded you that Royal Caribbean Cruises is here to recruit,” Mr Mwathethe added, noting that there is a global shortage of seafarers.

“We are targeting to recruit thousands of Kenyans to work on cruise ships. We appeal to Kenyans especially in the hospitality sector to retool themselves to ensure they meet the standards required to get these jobs,” he said.

Women breaking the ceiling in male-dominated maritime jobs

Today marks the inaugural International Day for Women in Maritime. The day celebrates women in the industry and is intended to promote the recruitment, retention and sustained employment of women in the maritime sector.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Assembly in 2021 adopted a resolution proclaiming the day. The theme for this year is Training-Visibility-Recognition: Supporting a barrier-free working environment.

Sergeant Deborah Karimi is among the few women working in this mainly male-dominated sector. She has worked at the Kenya Coast Guard Services since 2012 and is among the first certified female coxswain. A coxswain steers a ship, boats or other water vessels.

“I was a maritime police officer before. It has been more than five years working in the maritime industry,” Ms Karimi told Shipping and Logistics in an interview last Friday.

The Kenya Coast Guard was formed in 2018. Its headquarters is in Liwatoni in the port city of Mombasa, with presence in Lamu and Kisumu too. It consists of professional security drawn from the Kenya Defence Forces, Kenya National Police, National Intelligence Services and civilian professionals.

Ms Karimi is based at the headquarters in Mombasa.

New Shipyard Will Accelerate Kenya’s Industrial and Maritime Goals

When President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Mombasa Shipyard in December last year, Kenya entered the league of ship-building nations. The new shipyard has a capacity to handle 4,000-tonne vessels and will offer employment to over 10,000 Kenyans.

The shipyard represents the kind of transformational projects that will enable Kenya attain her ambition to be an industrial economy. It is the kind of large-scale investment in infrastructure required to deliver the next wave of economic growth and transformation.

Critically, the project will advance the country’s industrial and maritime agenda. By describing it as the “bedrock of the Blue Economy” the President underlined its significance to the country’s growing maritime sector currently valued at over Ksh 400 billion, roughly 4 per cent of GDP.

The project is also a major boost for the Vision 2030 national industrialization strategy. The transformative impact of the shipyard going forward will be felt in five major ways.

First is the massive economic benefits including the creation of thousands of jobs, directly via manpower employed at the site to carry out construction and repair of vessels, and indirectly through the expansive maritime transport supply chain. This includes specialized jobs like maritime engineering services.

Other spillover impacts are port services, shipping-related financial and legal services, offshore industries, maritime transportation, fishing, tourism and water sports. All these activities will raise revenue for the country in form of taxes to finance development.

Second, Kenya’s nascent Blue Economy will require adequate infrastructure to support a maritime economy. The new shipyard will integrate into sea mining and fishing activities; construction of offshore infrastructure and aquaculture facilities.

As a shipbuilding and maintenance hub, the Mtongwe shipyard will not only design and build new vessels but also undertake specialized maritime services like vessel repairs and re-fitting. In addition, skills transfer through maritime training programs will enable the country to rapidly transition into the Blue Economy.

Third, the shipyard is a critical infrastructure supporting the country’s shipping and security needs. For example, Kenya Navy vessels are currently re-fitted in places like Spain and the Netherlands. But with the new facility, the country will save an estimated Ksh 6.8 billion spent on servicing its marine equipment overseas, while developing local expertise in ship maintenance.

Already, many young Kenyans have undergone training in specialized welding and other high-value activities. For the Blue Economy to flourish, Kenya needs to develop technical expertise in maritime engineering.

In advanced economies like the US, shipyards serve three intertwined purposes – commercial, security and scientific. Private shippers use the facility to service their vessels thus promoting trade. Since it is based at the Kenya Navy Base at Mtongwe, the Mombasa shipyard serves a crucial naval function besides potentially supporting future ocean-based science research.

Fourth, the multi-agency approach behind the shipyard involving among others, Kenya Defence Forces, Kenya Coast Guard Service, Kenya Railways and National Youth Service, is a classic example of how various State agencies can work seamlessly in delivering critical national infrastructure in a timely, cost-effective and transparent manner.

The Kenya Shipyards Limited (KSL) established through an Executive Order in 2018 will play a facilitative role in promoting trade, industry and defence within the country’s maritime domain. The Eastern Africa coastline has only four shipyards located in Egypt, Djibouti and South Africa. Through KSL, Kenya is positioned to emerge as the new ship-building hub in Africa serving public and private, domestic and regional clients.

Fifth, the Mombasa shipyard will transform the coastal economy by opening up the region to new investments. Key sub-sectors of the Blue Economy like fisheries which employ many locals will benefit. Private shipyards charge millions of shillings for repair of vessels. The State facility at Mtongwe will help bring down the cost of maintenance and encourage more local entrepreneurs to venture into the fisheries industry.

This will also unlock the enormous business potential in Kenya’s territorial waters and coastal strip. Providing livelihood and business opportunities to the people of the coastal region is critical in addressing poverty and by extension, countering violent extremism which has been a major challenge fueling insecurity in the area.

In short, the long-term economic impact of Mombasa shipyard far surpasses its primary function of ship construction and repair and will be felt for many years to come as a legacy infrastructure project of President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Royal Caribbean cruises to recruit 2000 Kenyans

Some 2,000 Kenyans are to be engaged as cruise ship workers aboard vessels owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises and Celebrity Cruises in the latest recruitment drive.

This is the second lucrative deal for Kenyan seafarers after the Italian-owned Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), which has so far employed some 1,000 Kenyan seafarers aboard its fleet of ocean-going vessels.

Speaking in an interview, Mr Mahendra Seepaul, the managing director of CSCS International-Mauritius, the hiring partner for both Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, said they have identified Kenya as ideal hospitality and maritime job market.

“We are already recruiting in Madagascar, South Africa, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Rwanda. We have seen the calibre of staff you have here and want to make Kenya the hub of our African recruitment process,” Mr Seepaul said.


Those being hired include cooks, waiters, baristas, kitchen utility staff, pastry chefs, guest relations agents, lifeguards, animators and marine staff.

Already, interviews have been conducted at the Boma Hotel Nairobi, Kenya Utalii College, Nairobi and Bandari Maritime Academy in Mombasa.

“My priority in coming to Kenya is to give jobs to deserving and jobless youth and those with a background in the hospitality industry,” he said.

The Oceans and Blue Economy Office Head General (Rtd) Samsom Mwathethe (pictured) welcomed the move to hire more Kenyans to work aboard cruise liners.

He challenged workers in the hospitality industry to retool themselves with the requisite skills that will allow them to get well-paying cruise jobs. Gen Mwathethe called on the recruits to carry the Kenyan flag high.

“The nature of your works entails lots of travel. We urge you to be our good ambassadors and help keep the Kenyan flag high at all times,” he said, adding that the maritime world is grappling with a shortage of seafarers.

“It is our hope that Kenyans in the hospitality industry can retool themselves and apply for these jobs that come with better remuneration,” Gen Mwathethe said.

Dockworkers Union General Secretary Simon Sang said the jobs offer to young Kenyans by cruise liners are a big testimony of the huge potential in the local labour market. “We have seen what these jobs mean to our people, and we salute the government,” he said.

Shipping and Maritime Principal Secretary Ms Nancy Karigithu said the State projects to have close to 200,000 Kenyans employed as seafarers. [Philip Mwakio]

“We have our towns within Mombasa Port city like Likoni, Kisauni and Kongowea which were largely built by people who served as seafarers in the former days. We are eager to get back to the old golden days when Kenyan seafarers ruled the waves,” she said.

The government has upgraded the former Bandari College to Bandari Maritime Academy which has now started attracting international students from across the continent.