Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) has raised the red flag over the unprecedented rise in the number of ferry users, fearing it could soon be overwhelmed by daily traffic expected to hit 500,000 passengers by 2018.
The trend, KFS said yesterday, has resulted in long queues and delays at the Likoni channel in Mombasa. KFS currently has to contend with more than 6,000 vehicles and 300,000 passengers who use the Likoni ferry crossing daily to shuttle between the island and the South Coast mainland, using only five vessels —MV Nyayo, MV Kilindini, MV Harambee, MV Kwale and MV Likoni.
Managing director Musa Hassan said long queues currently being witnessed at the passengers’ waiting bay is because of increase in the number of people using ferries this month, being the high tourism season.
“The daily ferry passenger number is likely to reach 500,000 by 2018 if the current trend continues. There is, especially unprecedented increase in demand along the Likoni channel since ferry services at Mtongwe channel were halted,” he said.
“This has put a lot of pressure on Likoni channel since those who were formally using Mtongwe channel have moved to Likoni.” Hassan said KFS is, however, in talks with the Mombasa county government to reopen the Mtongwe channel to ease passenger traffic.
He said they expect more passengers in the coming weeks and months, going into the December holiday season and therefore, the likelihood of even more delays for users. The upsurge in passenger numbers has forced KFS to review its ferry routine maintenance timetable for the ferries to off-peak hours.
Last Friday, hundreds of passengers were stranded for hours at the Likoni channel with vehicle traffic snaking all the way to nearby Padya Hospital as drivers waited to board their vehicles onto the evening ferry.
On Saturday, things took a turn for the worse when three people were injured after a wall collapsed as they struggled to get into one of the ferries. “With the increase in passenger numbers, withdrawing even one ferry for routine maintenance can cause huge pile up such as the one witnessed on Friday.
We have hence moved routine maintenance procedures to off-peak and even overnight to minimise the inconvenience it might cause to ferry users,” said Hassan.
The national government has already provided funding for the purchase of two new ferries while the Mombasa county government has promised to foot the bill for an additional vessel for use at the Mtongwe crossing.
Unlike the northern side of Mombasa that is linked by bridges at Nyali, Mtwapa Kilifi and Sabaki the South Coast depends solely on the ferries. The service is operated free of charge for passengers as a government social obligation, but motorists pay a minimal charge for their vehicles.