Lamu, KENYA: A Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) workshop to sensitize boat owners on marine safety rules at the Mwana Arafa hotel was on Wednesday afternoon disrupted after the more than 500 boat owners who had attended the event protested against the stiffness of the maritime regulations.
The situation forced the intervention of police who were called in to restore order for the event to carry on.
The incident took place after the boat operators and the KMA officials who were presiding over the event, failed to agree on how and when penalties for maritime crimes were to be implemented.
The operators who were visibly upset said the stated penalties were too harsh for them to conform to and that they also threatened to hinder their trade.
They then stormed out of the hotel while screaming and shouting causing a scuffle that lasted over half an hour.
Police officers were however called in and managed to restore sanity for the workshop to proceed.
Speaking at the event Lamu county commissioner Joseph Kanyiri urged the boat owners to adhere to the maritime rules for their own benefit.
Kanyiri defended the KMA saying they were not responsible for formation of the regulations, but that parliament was and asked those who had issues to seek clarification from the parliament instead.
“Maritime rules must be followed to the latter in order to save lives and put sanity into this whole business. The KMA shouldn’t be blamed since they didn’t come up with the rules nut rather it was parliament and so whoever feels anything should go to parliament. Otherwise the law must be respected by all,” said Kanyiri.
The KMA Director Chenje Mwachiro, said the objective was to sensitize all sea users in the country on safety precautions to be undertaken while at sea.
Mwachiro said the trend by many boat operators to flout maritime regulations while at sea including failure to use life saving jackets on their passengers had resulted in huge loss of lives.
“Here in Lamu for instance the biggest concern is that many boat owners don’t have life jackets. The men mostly refuse to wear the jackets on the belief that they know how to swim. Let’s think of each other even as we seek livelihoods using our boats and that’s why we call for total adherence to maritime rules,”said Mwachiro.
The boat owners however made it clear that they would only observe the maritime regulations if they KMA agrees to meet with them and reach an agreement on the matter.