Senate committee wants Likoni ferries grounded over safety concerns

Friday, November 1st, 2019 04:50 |
Kenya Ferry Service (KFS) MD Bakari Gowa (right) with Senate Transport committee chair Kimani Wamatangi (centre) and Transport PS Esther Koimmet when they visited the Likoni Ferry Channel, in Mombasa, yesterday. PD/BONFACE MSANGI
Kenya Ferry Service (KFS) MD Bakari Gowa (right) with Senate Transport committee chair Kimani Wamatangi (centre) and Transport PS Esther Koimmet when they visited the Likoni Ferry Channel, in Mombasa, yesterday. PD/BONFACE MSANGI

The Senate Committee on Transport has recommended grounding of all rundown vessels plying the Likoni Channel on grounds there is no guaranteed safety for more than 300,000 commuters who use the ferries daily. 

 This came as Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) managing director Bakari Gowa was put to task to explain myriad of queries issues regarding safety crisis affecting the service when he appeared before the committee in Mombasa, yesterday.

 Gowa was subjected to hours of grilling on endless accidents, seaworthiness of the vessels, illegal tendering processes and misuse of taxpayers’ money. 

 The committee also ordered that plans to put up a cable car across the channel be suspended. 

The Kimani Wamatangi-led committee sought answers on among other matters, why the management of KFS ‘has continued to expose lives of hundreds of thousands of ferry users to risk by allowing unseaworthy vessels to operate at the channel.

Competency certification

The senators had also sought to know why the management had allowed coxswains to operate without meeting competency certification as required by the Merchant Shipping Act.

In reference to a report presented by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo last week, which established that five ferries - MV Kilindini, MV Kwale, MV Nyayo, MV Harambee and MV Likoni do not meet international safety regulations standards, the committee charged that it was necessary for KFS management to provide answers regarding the queries raised.

Wamatangi further warned the committee “may declare officers unfit to hold office.”

“Whenever a statement is read in the floor of the House, it becomes the property of the House…I want to remind you that this committee may also have latitude to declare officers unfit to hold office. Concerns raised by the report provide serious queries and recommended investigations be done against this service and this is part of the reasons why we are here today,” Wamatangi said.

It also emerged that a report by sacked KFS chairman Dan Mwazo had pointed a number of issues pointing to mismanagement and recommended ‘shake up of the current KFS leadership.’

But Gowa defended his management saying most of the ferries had gone beyond the recommended 20 years sea life and therefore were increasingly costly to maintain.

The MD told the committee that the KFS management had done all it can to keep the ferries running by carrying out repairs such replacement of old engines and new generators.

Gowa was, however, unable to convince the committee unseaworthy vessels were still being allowed to ferry pedestrians and motorists, the obvious risks notwithstanding.

“Supposed there was a bigger tragedy God forbid, what would you tell Kenyans? That you took right steps? You can say you are lucky we are in Kenya. If you were in China you will be facing a firing squad especially after admissions you have made here on record,” said Wamatangi.

The MD’s attempts to respond extensively to the queries were unsuccessful as Wamatangi said he was only given 10 minutes to respond in summary and he will get time when he appears before the Senate.

Not even PS, Shipping and Maritime Affairs Nancy Karigithu and her Transport counterpart Esther Koimett could shield the MD against tough line of questions from the committee members.

Unseaworthy vessels

Nominated Senator Sylvia Kasanga said in her report, the MD had confirmed that five ferries were unseaworthy adding there was need for “irreducible minimums on the directions to be taken.”

“These are over 300,000 lives at stake daily let’s not forget this fact. The best option is to have the risky ferries withdrawn immediately,” said Kasanga.

On his part, Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua wondered why KFS was only being wordy with numbers of vehicles, people and bicycles that go through the ferry daily without being accountable on the amounts cash collected at the channel.

“We know very well that KFS charges vehicles at the crossing why can’t you then tell us how much you collect at the channel daily…you only complain about funding yet you collect funds at the ferry,” said Wambua.

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