Faulty ferry sparks safety fears

By: MATHIAS RINGA

Lives of thousands of passengers using the Likoni Channel are at risk as the Kenya Ferry Services continues to use a vessel with engine problems.

The agency has failed to have the ferry, MV Harambee, repaired, due to financial constraints.

KFS Managing Director Musa Hassan Musa told the Daily Nation that the lifespans of five of the ferries expired more than 10 years ago.

Of the seven ferries, only two, MV Likoni and MV Kwale, are seaworthy, up to 2020, piling more misery on users.

Despite the drawback of battered ferries, the number of passengers crossing the channel daily had soared from 60,000 in 1995 to 300,000 in 2014.

Yesterday, Mr Musa said the KFS had no choice but to continue using MV Harambee, which urgently requires new engines . He said the agency had failed to have it fixed owing to a financial crisis.

“To address the transport crisis at the channel, we must operate four ferries daily,” he said.

“That’s why we are using the faulty ferry. In addition, we don’t have Sh18 million to pay for the other one (MV Kilindini), which has been repaired,” he said.

Last week, MV Harambee stalled in the Likoni Channel, causing panic among thousands of passengers.

Mr Musa said the vessel emits a plume of smoke.

He said the KFS had bought two new engines at a cost of Sh18 million for MV Harambee, but the vessel cannot be withdrawn from the channel unless Sh18 million is paid to an engineering firm to allow the release of MV Kilindini, which has been repaired.

Mr Musa said the parastatal’s financial crisis was due to failure by the National Treasury to disburse Sh84 million for operational costs this quarter.

He added that the KFS sank into further financial woes last month when it had to pay its workers salary arrears of Sh54 million, awarded to them by the Industrial Court.

“At the moment, we require Sh35 million to pay a bill of Sh18 million for the repaired ferry and the rest for the replacement of the engines of the other ferry,” he said.

“Sadly, the Treasury is yet to disburse the funds meant to meet maintenance costs of the aged ferries,” he said.

In 1994, he said, the government signed a memorandum of understanding in which the parastatal was to meet 30 per cent of the operational costs.

The government was to meet 70 per cent of the operational costs for ferry passengers to continue enjoying free services.

“But for the last 20 years, the government meets an average of 40 per cent of the operational costs, leaving the parastatal in a cash crunch,” he added.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION