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Panic gripped commuters and motorists on Tuesday evening when one of the new ferries got stuck on the main ramp at the Likoni channel, blocking other vessels from disembarking during the rush hour.
Panic gripped commuters and motorists on Tuesday evening when one of the new ferries got stuck on the main ramp at the Likoni channel, blocking other vessels from disembarking during the rush hour.

MV Likoni had already loaded passengers and vehicles and was preparing to sail to the mainland side when it failed to take off.

There was more drama when another vessel MV Kwale that was coming from the mainland stalled midstream and started drifting towards the Port sending more panic to the commuters on board the two new ferries.

Anxious commuters who were growing in numbers at the waiting bay on the island side broke the security ring and rushed to the remaining ramp waiting for the only vessel MV Nyayo that was still operating.

But the surging crowd near the ramp made it very difficult for MV Nyayo to disembark creating more confusion as everyone wanted to get into the vessel to cross, even blocking the other passengers and vehicles.

The police led by Mombasa OCPD Tom Mboya Odero had a difficult time trying to control the crowd as transport at the channel came to a standstill. Nobody was injured during the melee, but some passengers reported losing some personal items as they struggled to board the ferries.

Meanwhile vehicles on either side of the channel were held in a jam extending over one kilometre, delaying tourists and other commuters who were either trying to get to their hotels, airport or places of work and residence.

Mr Odero said they were called in by the Kenya Ferry Service to help in controlling the people who were getting restless.

“The situation was bad because the mishaps happened during the rush hour when thousands of people are going home from work. It started easing up when a Kenya Ports Authority tug boat was brought in to pull MV Likoni from the rump."

“But even after all the three vessels resumed normal services, the problem was to control the huge crowd and the traffic snarl up which took us about one hour to clear,” the OCPD said.

The whole exercise took about three hours to revert to normal but many ferry users are apprehensive that the problems at the crossing channel are far from over even with the arrival of two new ferries, hardly three months ago.

Operations disrupted

On Monday, operations at the channel were disrupted as the KFS struggled to retrieve a truck that plunged in the ocean on Sunday.

The rescue operation had resulted in a massive human and vehicle snarl-up on either side of the channel.

Tour operators and hoteliers have expressed fears that the continued mishaps at the channel would affect the business that had started picking up with the arrival of new vessels.

Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association (MCTA) executive officer Millicent Odhiambo said the mishaps at the channel have taken worrying trends.

“As stakeholders we are getting concerned that the expectations that the new ferries would ease the problem are not being met and the experiences the people were going through are still the same.

“But strangely, the management of the KFS has not warmed up to stakeholders concerns especially when the issue of ramps came up even before the vessels were delivered,” she said.
Kenya Ferry Service management has however said it will re-advertise the tender to design, repair and expand landing ramps at the Likoni channel in both sides and also expand the Peleleza mooring jetty.

Recent interview

In a recent interview with KFS managing director Musa Hassan Musa, he said the tender will be re-advertised to ensure transparency in the procurement process.

Mr Musa said current ramps (landing infrastructure) only accommodates two ferries at one time and there is need to expand the ramps to accommodate at least three ferries to ease vehicular and human traffic at the channel.

“We have given more time to bidders to access the cost and any information of repairing and expanding the ramps before we place the tender,” said Mr Musa.

The MD said the tender will also give time KFS management time to borrow money from the treasury to fund the project.

The expansion of the Likoni ferry landing ramps on both Island and Mainland is to provide symmetrical ramp surface and 40 metre sea front landing area of the new ferries while at Peleleza mooring jetty will allow more space to dock the vessels while on regular maintenance.

The project is expected to take not less than six months once the tender is awarded and unconfirmed reports indicate that there are some businessmen who have grabbed a section of land on the mainland side where ramp is expected to be expanded.