A major crisis is looming in the busy Likoni channel in Mombasa after a parliamentary committee condemned three ferries as a disaster in waiting.
The Senate Committee on Transport and Infrastructure now says MV Harambee, MV Kilindini and MV Nyayo should be stopped from operating in the channel. The Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) agrees that they are not only old but also faulty.
The Ministry of Transport says it requires Sh1.1 billion to repair and maintain the six ferries managed by KFS.
The KFS has said in its report that there is urgent need to replace the ferries, which are 30 years old as it has become costly to maintain and repair them.
The committee said the move is aimed at “preventing future tragedies” that could be caused by the defective ferries, which have become deathtraps to thousands of Coast residents, who use them daily.
“We have heard from the management that the ferries are not 100 per cent safe and funds are not there. Our consideration is therefore to ground some of these ferries. We will give a timeframe of about 14 days to see this is done,” said the committee’s chairman, Senator Kimani Wamatangi, who was on Thursday in Mombasa together with members of the team.
The removal of the three ferries from service would mean that only three others, MV Jambo, MV Kwale and MV Likoni will remain operational.
The three ferries, according to the KFS operation schedule, cannot manage to serve the 350,000 people and 6,000 vehicles that use the channel daily.
The situation could also result in an economic crisis as fuel trucks, which pay Sh5,550 per trip and contribute majorly to the parastatal’s revenue collection, would delay.
To run the three ferries, the alternative for KFS would be to force the ferries to operate beyond their limit.
According to the maritime regulations, a ferry should be sent to dry dock after 8,500 hours of operations.
The Office of Auditor-General in its 2017/2018 audit noted that MV Likoni and MV Kwale had been operating in the channel for more than 35,000 hours without the mandatory overhaul dry-docking, putting the lives of the ferry users at risk.
At this time, the said ferries exceeded their operation hours despite the availability of the four other ferries.
Normally, KFS operates four to five ferries during peak hours to deal with the many people and the hundreds of vehicles, some of which go to Tanzania.
Having three ferries plying the Likoni channel would mean that KFS will also not be able to serve at least 10,000 people who have been using the Mtongwe channel, which also connects to the South Coast.
The Mtongwe channel is currently shut as its jetties are under renovations.
With the channel closed, there is no other way to connect Mombasa island and the South Coast, which covers Kwale County and links Kenya to Tanzania.
DONGO KUNDU BYPASS
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.
The construction would include putting up two bridges, one at Mwache that will be 900 metres long and another at Mteza, 1.4km long. A sightseeing bay will also be done and 88 hectares of mangroves will be replanted as part of the project.
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.