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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mtongwe channel shut down after 'cash-strapped' KFS fails to repair ferry

The Mtongwe crossing channel which was reopened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 20, 2017. /ELKANA JACOB
The Mtongwe crossing channel which was reopened by President Uhuru Kenyatta on March 20, 2017. /ELKANA JACOB

The Mtongwe crossing channel has been on shutdown for the last 10 days, triggering massive gridlock at the Likoni channel.

Workers at the operations department told The Star this is because MV Nyayo, which operates at the channel, stalled.

The situation forced the management to withdraw MV Likoni from the Mtongwe channel to cushion commuters from traffic at Likoni.

The closure has been blamed on last week's stampede at Likoni which left scores injured.

Reports indicate the Kenya Ferry Services is suffering a serious cash crunch and may not repair MV Nyayo soon.

While relaunching the Mtongwe channel on March 13, President Uhuru Kenyatta said its operations would be round the clock.

The head of state said the ferries would ease pressure on Likoni Ferry which serves nearly 300,000 people daily.

"It will also boost tourism at the South Coast especially Diani," he said.

But sporadic mechanical hitches that hit Mtongwe-bound vessels have made locals shun the channel.

In April, a pontoon was swept away by Indian Ocean waves. This disrupted services at the channel whose relaunch escalated political differences pitting the President and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.

The pontoon is said to have been carried away after its two pillars were swept by heavy tides.

Read: Mtongwe ferry services disrupted after ocean waves sweep away pontoon

Also read: Cleanse Mtongwe ferry channel to avert disasters, says Mijikenda elders

Mtongwe has been disaster-bound. The channel witnessed one of the most deadly accidents in maritime history.

In 1994, the MV Mtongwe ferry bound for the mainland capsized just 40 metres from the port, killing 272 of the 400 people on board.

A report by a committee of inquiry said the ferry was overloaded.

Calls to KFS MD Bakari Gowa went unanswered on Monday. But senior corporate services secretary Elizabeth Wachira said engineers were working round the clock to salvage the situation.

She did not reveal whether the parastatal is facing a financial crisis, only saying "even if there is no money, you have to do what you have to do".

Wachira said lack of spare parts delayed resumption of services.

"The channel stopped operating last week, not 10 days ago as claimed," she said.


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