By Kevin Odit
Commuters at the Likoni ferry channel were stranded for more than five hours when three vessels stalled in the sea.
The ferries, MV Harambee, MV Kilindini and MV Likoni broke down on Wednesday evening causing one of the greatest logjams in recent memory.
Commuters suspect dissatisfied ferry workers sabotaged the vessels since MV Likoni had just been released from the dry dock after repairs.
But KFS Managing Director Musa Hassan claimed the vessels stalled due to a “mechanical breakdown”, adding that only two ferries, MV Likoni and MV Kilindini, had stalled.
He said MV Likoni was back in action and that MV Kilindi would resume operations this evening.
However, stranded commuters disputed the official account, saying MV Harambee and MV Kilindi stalled in the sea as they tried to rescue MV Likoni, which stalled first forcing KFS to deploy a tugboat to unlock the logjam.
As the crisis persisted only MV Kwale was operational, occasioning the huge jam.
According to a witness, Juma Matano, the struggle by the two ferries was a risky affair given the channel accommodates ships entering the port of Mombasa. Panicking passengers jumped into the recovery vessel despite the dangers involved.
“I was in MV Likoni and at one point commuters started jumping into the recovery ferry. I think the management needs to look into the issue of ferry breakdown, having three damaged ferries is a clear indication there is no proper maintenance done on the vessels,” Said Matano.
Motorists were stranded on the mainland as the evening progressed with no chance of making it before nightfall. Tour operators and other transport operators counted losses following the mishap as most of them could not complete their schedules.
MV Likoni had been taken for renovation for a month and on its first day after the repair it stalled with passengers on board, raising eyebrows on the maintenance procedures carried out on the newly acquired ferries.
The mishap comes barely weeks after the worst ever Kenya Ferry workers’ strike disrupted operations at the crossing channel.
The strike led to huge losses following act of hooliganism by the angry commuters who burnt down the shops operated by KFS located around the Kilindini berth.
Another commuter said, “We are tired of these frequent breakdowns. KFS should decide either to serve us as they should or we decide to take action against its inefficiency.