Unqualified coxswains are operating ferries on the Likoni Channel, risking the lives of thousands of Kenyans.
Shockingly, most of the 19 coxswains who steer the faulty vessels have only fire-fighting and first aid certificates.
Sources from the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) revealed that only two had certificates that met the Merchant Shipping Act, 1970. However, the certificates only allow them to operate vessels measuring up to 20 metres.
“The Likoni Channel is 500 metres. This means that none of them should be operating those vessels. They are risking the lives of thousands of Kenyans,” said a senior KMA official.
On September 2, KMA directed Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) to provide their coxswains’ certificates. None was found fit to operate the vessels.
It also emerged yesterday during a sitting with the Senate Committee on Transport and Infrastructure that KFS has been modifying parts to repair faulty ferries since the required spare parts were unavailable.
In a report tabled before the committee, KFS managing director Bakari Gowa acknowledged that they had been forced to fabricate parts for mv Harambee, mv Nyayo, mv Kilindini, mv Likoni and Mv Kwale because the required spares were unavailable.
“There is an urgent need to replace the ferries (mv Harambee, mv Kilindini and mv Nyayo) that are 30 years old as it has become costly to maintain them. There is a problem getting the spare parts, which have been phased out of the market,” states the report.
The German factory that built some of the ferries shut down years ago.
Despite the millions of shillings used in repairs, the vessels are unsafe, with most of them having faulty steering systems, broken prows and poor hydraulic systems.
The committee chaired by Senator Kimani Wamatangi took Mr Gowa to task for allowing operating faulty ferries. “When I board one, I come out of my vehicle with my legs shaking as I try to remind myself how to swim in case something happens. That is the reality that Kenyans using those ferries every day face,” said Mr Wamatangi.
The committee demanded the grounding of the vessels and rejected Transport PS Esther Koimet’s explanation that they cannot be maintained due to lack of funds.
“These ferries should be grounded with immediate effect until the budget the ministry is talking about is made available,” said nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga.
Meanwhile, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua asked the KFS management to explain how they spend the money collected daily from motorists. “You cannot be asking for funds yet we do not know what you do with the millions of shillings you collect every day,” he said.