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Kenya ferry failures: Talks does not substitute for action

Kenya ferry failures: Talks does not substitute for action

“We are tired of the rhetoric of the ferry management. They should learn to back up their utterances with concrete action, because these constant breakdowns of ferries at Likoni are no longer acceptable,” ranted a regular Mombasa-based source yesterday afternoon when passing information of yet another near standstill of ferry operations from the Mombasa island to the southern mainland.

Reportedly three of the four ferries developed mechanical problems almost at the same time, and the one remaining vessel then faced a further delay in docking after a lorry had gotten stuck while trying to exit.

Motorists resorted to hooting and angry outbursts when, after resuming operations, pedestrians were then given preference to clear the ferry ramps on both sides of equally-agitated commuters on foot, prolonging the agony of tourists who suffered several hours of delays in crossing the busy port entrance channel.

The long overdue Dongo Kundu bypass from the international airport and off the Nairobi to Mombasa highway to the south coast is, while finally under construction, still at least two years from completion, while demands to build a bridge over the Likoni channel – apart from finding mouth support – have not advanced significantly in either planning or financing of such a project.

The idea of cable cars has been ridiculed and dismissed by many as a mere fancy, as the commuter numbers are far too great to facilitate an orderly cross channel operation of such a facility.

Said one tour operator who regularly comments on local affairs: “We all hope that ahead of the Christmas period, and again New Year, the ferries are all in working order. A lot of people are arriving in Mombasa from upcountry and want to reach their hotels at the south coast. Tourist flights to Mombasa are full, and if visitors are delayed, it is bad for our reputation. What is obvious is that something is really wrong with the maintenance of these ferries to keep them in working order. I don’t know if at all they try to fix technical issues overnight when few ferries are crossing because the managers never comment on that.”

Hotels and resorts both north as well as south of Mombasa are reporting heavy bookings over the holiday period, and airlines operating from the two airports in Nairobi to the Ukunda airfield, which is just minutes from the resorts along the Diani beaches, have also confirmed that most of their flights are now sold out over the end year season, as are incidentally flights to Lamu and Malindi, too.

More and more travelers opt for flights to Ukunda to bypass the bottleneck at Likoni and give flights to Mombasa’s main airport a wide berth in favor of the, albeit more expensive, direct services to an airfield near their resort destination.

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