Mtongwe residents in Mombasa feel cheated after more than eight months without consistent ferry services.
This is despite President Uhuru’s relaunch of the ferry services with fanfare in March last year.
The MV Likoni was transferred to the Mtongwe channel from Likoni. The ferry operated for six months before it was withdrawn in October after the repeat presidential election.
“Since then, the ferry has been in use about four times only and mark you we are not told when it will be operating Michael Ogwambo, a Mtongwe resident, said.
“It might be deployed in the morning for one trip then it is withdrawn for three weeks.”
There were no ferry services before March last year because the two old ferries that used to operate at the channel had been decommissioned.
The Mtongwe ferry is most remembered for the 1994 disaster when a ferry capsized, killing 270 people.
On Saturday, Kenya Ferry Services managing director Bakari Goa said the Mtongwe channel is longer than the Likoni channel and is more expensive to operate.
“That channel costs about Sh12,000 for one movement. The Likoni channel costs around Sh10,000 per movement,” he said.
Speaking on Baraka FM, Goa said it is not sustainable to operate a ferry at the Mtongwe channel because there are few commuters.
He said in most cases, there are an average of 100 people using the channel per trip, a number that is not economically viable.
“You carry 100 people for Sh12,000 and [despite the pain you go through to provide] that service, people are complaining,” Goa said.
He said the ideal number of passengers per trip for the Mtongwe channel is at least 500.
The MV Likoni has a capacity of 3,000 people and 60 cars.
“That is a very big gap. So as they complain they should [be considerate]. Do we take a ferry there and leave people at Likoni channel to suffer just because you want to carry 100 people somewhere?” Goa said.
On average, the Likoni channel transports 300,000 people and 3,000 vehicles daily. Vehicles cannot be transported across the Mtongwe channel.
But residents said they are forced to use more money to travel via matatus to the Likoni channel.
Most of the people living in Mtongwe are poor and go to Mombasa town daily for casual jobs.
“In the morning we pay Sh50 to Likoni. The same in the evening. There are days you get jobs which pay around Sh200 a day,” Mwanasiti Mwadeni said.
“You use Sh100 for fare to and from Likoni. You are left with Sh100. You have not eaten, which takes around Sh30. What are you left with to take home?”
He said sometimes they do not get any jobs. The residents threatened to destroy the pontoons or buoyancy devices at the channel if the ferry services are not restored.
Goa said ferry services will resume after the MV Kwale’s propeller is fixed.
There are six ferries at the Likoni channel but the MV Kwale and MV Kilindini are broken.
“It is only that it is a commitment by the government to provide the services for Mtongwe residents but in terms of numbers there is no justification for having that service,” Goa said.
He said it is the KFS, not Mtongwe residents, who invited Uhuru to relaunch the services.