Mr. Sondai added that the business of the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration is about regulating and developing activities and performances relating to the seas; the sea environment; work on the seas and workers connected to activities occurring on the seas or in water environments. He added that you also have operations that take place on shores which support activities taking place at sea.
Mr. Sondai was speaking during the AYV flagship morning programme Wake Up Sierra Leone on International Workers’ Day, Tuesday 1st May, 2019.
According to him, maritime activities have not been too effective. “At times it is good to call a spade a spade. Over the years maritime administration has been plagued with political interference. Even appointing staff to the Administration is most times based or fraught with political sentiments and not based on merit or qualification and that has destroyed the Administration greatly,” he said.
According to him, before he took up office there was an audit conducted at the SLMA in December last that was done by International Maritime Organization (IMO). “When they audited Sierra Leone it was very bad. When I went to the office the first thing I saw was that audit; and I also saw another audit by the US Coast Guard done two years earlier. One thing which came out clearly was that Maritime administration does not have the requisite expertise to carry out the administrative functions of that institution. It recommended that the administrative structure of the Administration should be restructured for us to meet our target properly. That is why in recent weeks you are hearing that we are about to do central restructuring because that came from that audit report and not from us,” said Ken Philip Sondai, Executive Director, Sierra Leone Maritime Administration.
He added that environmental protection, marine protection and laws against marine pollution are looked at in the same vein as they look at labour issues – the sort of places marine sector workers work – (onboard vessels, etc) to ensure that the conditions are safe, healthy and up to international standard.
Responding to further questions, Mr. Sondai maintained that Maritime Administration has been in existence in Sierra Leone for over nineteen years after created by an Act of Parliament. He said in the area of personnel, Maritime is a highly professional and recruiting staff is difficult; not just simply a matter of advertising but at times, even traveling abroad to recruit the best personnel to fill certain vacancies.
“We also do inspections of areas (seas and waters) where our people work to ensure safe and good working conditions onboard vessels. We ensure they have pure drinking water onboard and that their living conditions onboard stand up to international standard; we look at ventilation, fire extinguishers and all those things.” The SLMA Executive Director Mr. Sondai said.