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Seafarers decry poor pay, exploitation

[Mombasa seafarers led by Hassan Kombo Ismail (Right). Photo/Ahmed Omar].

A section of seafarers in Mombasa has expressed concern over poor pay and exploitation in the maritime industry.

The seafarers accused ship-owners and shipping companies of flouting labor laws and underpaying them.

The seafarers who spoke to journalists in Mombasa said foreign shipping lines and ship owners are exploiting desperate Kenyan seafarers.

They said for years the local seafarers have been forced to work under poor conditions of service and receive undeserving pay due to lack of a wage standard for those in the sea service.

Failed Union

Led by Hassan Kombo Ismail the disgruntled seafarers also accused their union, Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK) of failing to improve their lot over the years.

Ismail said the union is beset by endless wrangles as members go through untold suffering while their level of remuneration is significantly lower than their foreign counterparts.

He said labor conditions in the maritime and sea transportation sector are poor because of weak union representation of port workers and seafarers.

“We demand better payment and welfare and an end to the huge disparities in the pay gaps between the local and foreign seafarers,” he said.

He said local seafarers get low wages compared to what their foreign counterparts from seafarers supply countries like China, Indonesia, India, Romania, Philippines, Burma, and Tanzania receive.


Babu Omari, another seafarer said they want only local crews to service ships calling at the port of Mombasa as happens in other jurisdictions.

“The issue of poor remuneration and working conditions for domestic seafarers is a matter of concern in the maritime industry and we want Kenya Maritime Authority to address it,” he said.

Kennedy Abongo said the Kenya Merchant Shipping Act 2019 while it was a fantastic piece of legislation that will confer seafaring jobs to Kenyan youth it failed to look into the issue of their welfare.

The seafarers said their situation has become precarious since the Coronavirus pandemic struck, saying few cargo and cruise ships are calling at the port of Mombasa due to the virus restrictions.