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Scramble at Likoni Channel as biggest ferry withdrawn




People disembark from MV Nyayo Tuesday with the withdrawn vessel in the background. PHOTO | WACHIRA MWANGI | NMG 

The country’s biggest ferry, the MV Jambo, which operates in the busy Likoni Channel has been withdrawn.

Its withdrawal over mechanical problems has resulted in massive delays and congestion.

On Tuesday, thousands of commuters and motorists had a hard time accessing the channel, which is used by more than 300,000 people and 6,000 vehicles daily.

Three ferries — MV Kwale, MV Harambee and MV Nyayo — are the only ones now in operation in the channel.

Women and children have been the most affected as scramble for vessels since last week when Jambo developed mechanical problems.

Motorists seeking to cross the Indian Ocean to the South Coast and to Mombasa Island have also been forced to queue for hours to board.

Kenya Ferry Service (KFS) managing director Bakari Gowa said the vessel’ had clutch problems. “The clutch got overheated and we had to take the vessel for repairs. We are working round the clock to have the ferry fixed and back in operation,” said Mr Gowa.

Jambo was bought in 2017, an acquisition that helped in dealing with perennial congestion problem at the channel. It is one of the new ferries that were bought by the government from Turkey a year ago at Sh2 billion..

The ferry has a capacity of more than 1,600 people and 64 vehicles. Unlike the old ferries, Jambo has washrooms for passengers, two rescue and emergency boats, CCTV cameras, and spacious sitting on the upper deck.

The Mtongwe ferry services, which had been withdrawn for the better part of last year, were restored in December. Withdrawal of ferry services had forced residents to use the Likoni channel, causing more congestion.

The Likoni channel is key to connecting the country to Tanzania through the Lunga Lunga highway but has been faced with congestion from time to time. The government has been seeking alternative means of transport to deal with the congestion.

Among its plans is the installation of modern cable cars at the crossway at a cost of Sh5 billion and construction of the second phase of the Sh30 billion Dongo Kundu Bypass to connect the North and South coasts.

The cable cars are expected to ease congestion, address regular ferry breakdowns and boost tourism. Ferries take about 10 minutes to cross the channel, but delays of up to 40 minutes have been reported due to mechanical breakdown.