Impunity still reigns at ferry services despite tragic deaths

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019 06:05 |

Even as Mariam Kighenda, 35, and her daughter Amanda Mutheu, 4, who perished at the Likoni crossing channel are yet to be buried, nothing seems to have changed to enhance safety of ferry users.

Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) is still operating vessels that have been declared sea  unworthy, characterised by ramps that are still ploughing in water, among other life-threatening features.

By yesterday, MV Harambee— the ferry from which Mariam’s vehicle slipped into the Indian ocean reportedly due to broken ramps— was still in use with no repairs having been done. 

Ferries have adjustable ramps which when elevated act as a wave guard and are lowered to a horizontal position at the terminus to meet a permanent road segment that extends under water.

Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has cancelled seaworthiness certificates for all the KFS vessels in the wake of the duo’s death. The authority said four ferries still in use at the channel have been declared unseaworthy and are a disaster in waiting.

The authority has also declared all KFS coxswains unqualified to operate the vessels because they have not undergone the mandatory Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping tutoring. 

Acting Head of Maritime Safety Cpt Mbarak Zaunga said the fatal accident could have been avoided if all safety measures were adhered to.

“This accident could have been avoided if safety operation procedure were followed. You cannot leave the jetty without lifting the ramp. The car could not have plunged into the sea if the ramp had been lifted up as required,” he said.

From the unqualified personnel, poorly maintained vessels with broken ramps, rotten guardrails to non-functional weigh bridges and security screening gadgets, nothing has changed two weeks after the accident. 

Enhance safety

On Saturday night, the Iron sheet roofing of MV Likoni was almost blown up by the wind causing panic among ferry users.

The loosely fixed sheets could be seen being swayed by the wind as heavy rain pounded the area. A widely-shared video of the incident has stirred concern over the safety of the ferries with Mombasa residents saying KFS has not learned from its mistakes.

Netizens want the government carry out an audit of the seaworthiness of all the six vessels operating at the channel.

“What measures are you putting in place to avoid a repeat of a car driving off midstream? What we note is ferries plying on with their ramps lowered instead of raised! Isn’t this negligence?” posed @Twahir_H_Kassim on Twitter.

Responding to rising safety concerns,  KFS managing director Bakari Gowa  has said the management is enforcing on-board ferry regulations to enhance safety and security of commuters.

Yesterday, Haki Africa executive director Hussein Khalid questioned why KFS had not taken MV Harambee for repair yet its broken ramps were blamed for the recent accident. “Everything at KFS is being run as if nothing happened. We are demanding that this impunity at the ferry must stop,” said Khalid, adding that Gowa should step down to allow investigations into the accident.

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