Nairobi — Kenya has moved a notch higher in efforts to protect its territorial waters with the formation of the Coast Guard Service unit.
To kick start operations of the department, President Uhuru Kenyatta has appointed former Kenya Navy veteran Brigadier Vincent Naisho Loonena to spearhead the unit.
Loonena takes up the new job after an illustrious career of over 20 years within the Kenya Defence Forces. His last post was the Managing Director Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme, a position in which he has served for four months.
He makes history as the first ever Director General of the Kenya Coast Guard Service ( in an acting capacity). President Kenyatta is expected to formally launched the Kenya Coast Guard Service on November 29, at Liwatoni in Mombasa.
The Kenya Coast Guard Service was established by The Coast Guard Service Act 2018, and was operationalized on October 22, 2018, when the Cabinet Secretary Interior and Coordination of National Government Dr. Fred Matiang'I gazetted the law.
The Kenya Coast Guard Service Act also puts in place the Coast Guard Service Council, which is the apex governance body of the Service.
Chaired by the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, the Council comprises multi-agency security teams and Cabinet Secretaries, including Amb. Raychelle Omamo (Defence), Keriako Tobiko (Environment and Forestry) and James Macharia (Transport, Infrastructure, Housing & Urban Development).
Other members are Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, Gen. Samson Mwathethe, the Inspector General of the National Police Service, Joseph Boinett, the Attorney General, Paul Kihara Kariuki, and representatives from the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Fisheries among others.
What it means to the country
Kenya now joins a group of elite African countries with highly specialized service guarding territorial waters.
It is estimated that the country loses at least US$100 million in revenue annually due to illegal and criminal activities at sea, and the Coast Guard Service is expected to keep the seashores safe from aggression and illegal commercial activities.
Precisely, it will be responsible for protecting the country's waters against dumping of harmful wastes and pollutants, search and rescue services, and the arrest of illegal fishermen.
The highly specialized Service will be headquartered at Liwatoni in Mombasa, but it will have a strong presence at the Mombasa, Lamu, and Kisumu ports. The launch of the Coast Guard Service comes at a critical moment when Kenya is preparing to host the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference scheduled for 26th to 29th November 2018.
"The country thus takes pride in its place in the international discourse on maritime security and safety," the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government said in a statement.
The evolving maritime security challenges all over the world have seen criminals use the sea as corridors for committing transnational organized crimes such as terror attacks, piracy, and drug and human trafficking among others.
Having a Coast Guard department means Kenya is now ready to take on these crimes head-on, a move that will help address maritime challenges not only at her coastline, but the entire region.
The Coast Guard Service also will provide insights into the development and implementation of international maritime security policies.
Ocean waters under Kenya's jurisdiction cover about 128,015km squared and a distance of 200 nautical miles offshore, while navigable inland waterways cover approximately 10,700 square kilometers.
This is slightly more than the total land surface area of 31 out of the 47 counties. This area of the sea and inland waters is what constitutes Kenya's maritime domain.
The maritime industry drives 92 per cent of the country's international trade.