A major crisis is looming at the Likoni crossing channel in Mombasa just as the holidays set in following the withdrawal of the country’s largest ferry, Mv Jambo.
Concerns have been raised as hundreds of holidaymakers are known to troop to the coastal counties during the December holidays, which is likely to worsen congestion at the channel.
The 500m-long Likoni Channel is a key link between the Mombasa island and the South Coast, which covers Kwale County and links Kenya to Tanzania.
The Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) said in a statement Wednesday that the Mv Jambo would stay out of service for two weeks for maintenance at the African Marine and General Engineering Company (Amgeco).
“The repairs are estimated to take two weeks. We appeal to our esteemed customers and stakeholders for patience and understanding during this period when our flagship ferry will be out of service,” said the management.
Already, hundreds of passengers and motorists spent hours at the channel as only three ferries are operational.
Two other vessels Mv Nyayo and Mv Kwale are also undergoing repairs.
“Mv Nyayo was withdrawn on Tuesday evening after it developed mechanical problems. Mv Kwale is out for repairs. The two might be back soon as their repair works are minor,” a KFS official told the Nation.
The three ferries in use are Mv Likoni, Mv Harambee and Mv Kilindini and were by Wednesday evening grappling to deal with the huge congestion at the channel.
Traffic snarl-ups were also experienced on both the sides of the channel as vehicles lined up waiting to cross.
Ordinarily, during peak hours, four to five vessels are in use to ferry the huge passengers numbers and vehicles in their hundreds.
Of the three ferries, two – Mv Harambee and Mv Kilindini – face perennial mechanical problems, leaving only Mv Jambo, with capacity to carry more than 1,600 people and 64 vehicles at ago, as the only relief.
KFS says maintenance of the two vessels, which are 30-years-old, has been costly.
Earlier this month, the Senate Committee on Transport and Infrastructure also recommended that the old ferries as well as Mv Nyayobe grounded, a proposal backed by KFS.
Ferry users will face the brunt of the vessels crisis as there is no an easily available alternative to connect Mombasa Island and the South Coast.
The alternative that the government is currently working on is the second phase of the Dongo Kundu Bypass, whose construction is far from completion.
The phase two of the project that aimed at connecting the North Coast and the South Coast would involve the construction of an 8.9km dual carriageway between Mwache Junction and Mteza, before linking to Kibundani in another 6.9km that will join the highway with the Likoni-Lunga Lunga Road.
Since this project is yet to be realised, if one sought to connect to the South Coast, they would have to use the Samburu-Kinango Road to get to Kwale from Mombasa, which can take up to two hours.