By MWAKWAYA RAYMOND
Likoni ferry channel is expected to experience relief of human cargo when the Kenya Ferry Services resumes operations at the Mtongwe channel ‘soon’ after the arrival of mv Safari this month (April).
Mtongwe commuters were forced to travel a longer route to access the ferries at the Likoni crossing points after the government agency abruptly suspended services to ease pressure following frequent breakdowns of operating vessels at the busy channel.
According to the KFS managing director Bakari Gowa the ongoing rehabilitation project at Mtongwe’s pontoon bridge is almost ready.
This, he says, will allow ferry users’ safety in loading and offloading from the vessels on either sides of the Mtongwe channel once the renovations are complete.
“I am looking at the next two weeks we shall be done with the renovations and the channel will be open to all commuters,” he adds in an interview.
The arrival of the much-awaited mv Safari on April 25, 2020 has boost the ferry fleet operating at the Likoni channel that service about 6,000 vehicles and some 300,000 commuters on daily basis.
However, these numbers have recently dwindled with the advent of the COVID 19 crisis that has brought down the social, economic and political aspects of the world due to lockdowns measures.
The ferry is one of the two procured at a cost of about Sh2 billion by the government when it signed a contract with a Turkish shipyard on June 27, 2015.
Its sister, mv Jambo, with a capacity of up to 1,500 passengers and 60 vehicles was delivered in July 2017 and has since been in operation with ‘spasmodic’ interruptions due to mechanical failures.
The arrival of the new ferry increases the KFS fleet to seven including mv Kwale, mv Likoni, mv Nyayo, mv Kilindini and mv Harambee with the latter three ‘groaning’ with age for operation since 1990.
According to the Turkey’s Ozata Shipyard, mv Safari, can travel at a maximum speed of eight knots in open sea.
The ferry if in operation will be allowed to carry 1,000 people in accordance with the government’s social distancing directive due to the prevalence of coronavirus disease.
Speaking when he received the new ferry, Mr Gowa said he was optimistic the vessel will enhance services at the Likoni channel.
“This ferry will ease congestion and we will no longer witness the usual long queues on either side of the crossing channel anymore.”
Currently the new ferry is undergoing technical inspection as well as fumigation at Likoni dockyard.
“With the ongoing outbreak of the Covid 19 pandemic, we have to fumigate the vessel given that it’s from outside the country. You never know it could be contaminated and I wouldn’t want us to risk the entire public,” the MD added.
The MD who was flanked by other senior officers said plans are underway to renovate all the other old ferries so as to enhance services to the public.