Friday, January 8, 2010

New ferries delay raises eyebrows

By SATURDAY NATION Correspondent

Coast leaders on Friday asked the government to buy new vessels to replace the dilapidated ones operating in Likoni Channel.

The leaders said the only way to solve the problem facing the more than 180,000 people, who use the channel daily, is to buy new vessels.

Kisauni MP Hassan Joho blamed Transport minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere for failing to solve the problem. Mr Joho said the ministry should come clean and explain the controversy surrounding the delay in procurement of two ferries from Germany.

“We have been promised the new vessels for more than a year now, but we are yet to see them. This shows how the minister of Transport has failed in his docket and he should resign,” said Mr Joho.

The MP said the minister, who also uses the channel, should not remain silent on the issue.

“We shall not be shocked to hear of a disaster on the channel any time since thousands of people are riding on a time bomb,” Mr Joho said.

Kenya Community Support Centre coordinator Phylis Muema said Mr Mwakwere should explain to Kenyans the whereabouts of the two vessels, which he promised would be delivered by December.

Purchasing of the two new vessels, valued at about Sh1 billion, has been marred by scandals, forcing some staff at Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) to be suspended.

The government gave KFS funds to buy the ferries in the 2003/2004 financial year.

The KFS managing director was sent on compulsory leave over the procurement after the second German firm was awarded a tender for two ferries measuring 60 metres, yet the board had approved only one measuring 60 metres and another measuring 48 metres.

This meant an additional cost of Sh400 million to the initial Sh900 million that was needed for the company to supply the vessels, hence causing the delay.

There are five old ferries in operation — mv Mvita, acquired in 1969; mv Pwani, bought in 1974; and mv Nyayo, mv Harambee and mv Kilindini, acquired second-hand in 1990.

According to the Ministry of Transport, the vessels should have been replaced 20 years ago.

KFS is scheduled to address a press conference today to explain the delays in the arrival of the new ferries.