PUBLIC TRANSPORT

County should build large dhows in Lamu

In Summary

• Only two large dhows or 'water buses' capable of carrying 150 passengers each are still operational

• The two 'water buses' travel hundreds of kilometres around the Lamu archipelago

The MV Shukrani plies longer distances, including Ndau, Kiwayu, Mkokoni and Kiunga.
The MV Shukrani plies longer distances, including Ndau, Kiwayu, Mkokoni and Kiunga.
Image: CHETI PRAXICDES

In Lamu county, most long-haul travel is by 'water buses',  large wooden dhows carrying up to 150 passengers.

Around 5,000 people a day travel by dhow in Lamu, often by smaller 'speed boats' but also by the big 'buses' that travel hundreds of kilometres around the Lamu archipelago up to the Somalia border. Their big hulls allow them to safely navigate the deep sea and treacherous island channels.

Unfortunately, there are only two 'water buses' remaining, MV Paradise and MV Shukrani. The Lamu population risks losing its main form of public transport.

No large boats are being built at the moment as smaller boats are cheaper and easier to operate, although they cannot carry large quantities of agricultural produce.

To make matters worse, boat builders capable of building large dhows are dying out. Lamu risks forgetting how to build large dhows.

Lamu county should step in and commission at least two large dhows from traditional boat builders. A 'water bus' costs around Sh4.5 million, which the county could easily afford.

Not only would this facilitate local transport but it would also preserve the cultural heritage of Lamu which attracts thousands of tourists every year.

Quote of the day: "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn!"

Robert Burns
The Scottish poet was born on January 25, 1759