Using the Likoni ferry is an inevitable fact for most people living in the South Coast areas of Likoni, Tiwi, Ukunda, Msambweni and beyond. For Likoni residents,crossing the ferry is a daily affair. In the morning when they go to work, market or school and in the evening when they go home.
However, for most this crossing is now filled with trepidation and uncertainty following recurring ferry stalling and mishaps. The Kenya Ferry Service is clearly struggling with running reliable ferry crossing service. In as much as the volume of cars and people has gone up, there’s a marked decline in the level of service at the Likoni crossing.
About two months ago, users had one of the worst experiences. For some reason, only 2 ferries were running on a Saturday morning resulting in a monstrous traffic build up. Yet, on Friday night there were 3 ferries running. How the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) management allows for that to happen is beyond the understanding of many Mombasa residents.
Four days ago, a ferry stalled just when it was about to get to the ramp and started drifting off. Users of that ferry would later tell of how the engines have been struggling for a while and have been stalling a few times only to be restarted. This time the engines stayed dead and the ferry started drifting to the open sea as panicked passengers threw on life jackets.
For residents who find themselves in that predicament there’s nothing to do because there’s really no other alternative crossing. Musyoki, a tour driver from Diani says
“these days, I say a prayer before and after getting across. There were days when crossing was a breeze especially after there were 2 new ferries. Now I have no confidence in the ferries at all.”
What will it take for the ferries to be well maintained ? A lot of people feel like this is a tragedy in slow motion. One that isn’t too far away. Majority of the people blame it on the KFS inept management and the central government’s inaction. There are calls to the central government to act on KFS to ensure that the parastatal is carrying out its mandate properly. The citizens are also desperate for a solution that is safer and more reliable.
“We have serious challenges in managing the ferries as most of them are old and require regular servicing, ” Mr Hassan the Kenya Ferry Service MD intimated.
Dongo Kundu bypass is the alternative that many hope to see hastened. Progress on that road has been slow considering it is about 4 years since the project was officially announced. Recent talk of cable cars does not seem to enthrall many given that a potentially corrupt government body will be charged with its maintenance yet they are struggling with ferries that are running on diesel engines.
The Mombasa county government has been forced to intervene and formed a joint task-force to look into way of easing the challenges at the ferry crossing. The Mombasa county wants to assist assist KFS in servicing and maintaining the ferries.
Is there a chance that we can stop this tragedy before it happens?