•The current situation that has seen the sea bed rise over the years means, these two channels cannot be navigated by larger vessels during low tide.
•Shippers have to wait for the tide to rise before they can embark on their journey while others are forced to start their travels extremely early before the tide drops.
Shippers in Lamu plying two major channels in the Indian Ocean are calling for urgent dredging of the two routes to facilitate smooth navigation.
The channels are the Lamu Island and Mkanda channels whose depth has risen and is now challenging safe navigation in the seas.
It’s especially challenging for large capacity boats to swiftly waddle through these channels without the danger of hitting rocks or corals or even capsising.
The shippers have called for the dredging of the 500-meter long Lamu Island to Manda channel and that of Mkanda to Kililana which is about 1.5 kilometres long to make them deeper and wider.
The current situation that has seen the sea bed rise over the years means, these two channels cannot be navigated by larger vessels during low tide.
Shippers have to wait for the tide to rise before they can embark on their journey while others are forced to start their travels extremely early before the tide drops.
Lamu Shippers Association chairperson Hassan Awadh said the rising sea bed of the two channels was caused by the dredging at the Lamu port site in Kililana, which resulted in more silt being deposited in the channels.
The sea bed within these two channels has continued to rise over the recent years, making it shallow and unable to hold larger marine vessels during low tide.
“The dredge spoil from the Lapsset has been swept downstream to these two channels and that’s why they have become too shallow. The more the ocean floor rises, the shallower they become,” Awadh said.
The shippers have called on Kenya Maritime Authority and other concerned authorities to intervene and take action to stop the further rising of the sea bed by having the excess silt and soil removed.
They said the situation has drastically affected the shipping industry in Lamu by forcing them to reduce the number of trips made across the archipelago and beyond due to inconsistent tides.
“We can only do one trip across these islands because most of the time the tide is low and we can’t move around as much as we would. Before these, the trips were unlimited,” Khaldun Vae, an investor said.
Lamu Island has in recent years witnessed unusual flooding caused by overflow from the Indian Ocean during annual tidal waves.
This has been blamed on the dredging at the Lamu port site that has dangerously lifted the ocean bed causing unstable water levels.
The situation always leaves homes, shops and streets submerged for days on end.
Marine biologist Abdulswamad Basheikh said the current situation implies that the seafloor has risen and cannot hold much water hence the overflow and subsequent flooding.
The Mkanda channel was last dredged in 1997 by the US Navy and has been in perfect condition ever since.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris