A near-collision between a ship and ferry loaded with hundreds of passengers has raised concerns over the safety of Likoni crossing channel in Mombasa.
The gigantic oil tanker was entering the Kilindini Harbour when it came within seconds and metres of colliding with a ferry with close to 2,000 passengers and vehicles. Maritime experts warn a collision would have resulted in hundreds of deaths through drowning and fire coupled with massive pollution of the channel.
Kenya Ferry Services yesterday only said “disciplinary action” had been taken against the coxswain who was piloting the ferry from the mainland to Mombasa island.
Yesterday, KFS confirmed that the bulky carrier nearly collided with the ferry but claimed the incident happened on August 10 despite alternative claims the near-collision could have happened yesterday or on Tuesday morning.
A video clip capturing the incident has gone viral creating panic among ferry users.
In the video clip, shell-shocked passengers and onlookers are seen wailing and praying as the gigantic vessel sounding danger with five short blasts approaches the ferry.
“Oh my God why can’t the ferry go back? May God have mercy on them,” one of the onlookers is overheard saying as the ship is roaring towards the ferry which was midway the channel.
The ferry was sailing from Likoni towards the mainland full of passengers and vehicles. The smallest ferries have a capacity of 1,500 passengers, but it carries more than 2000.
“Yes the incident happened on August 10 and not yesterday. Disciplinary action was taken against the coxswain,” said KFS Communications Officer Aaron Mutiso.
Ideally, ferries are required to pave way for the ship which sounds a prolonged blast about five hundred metres away as it approaches the narrow channel that leads to the port of Mombasa.
Ships sailing up the narrow Kilindini channel are usually navigated by local pilots to ensure maximum safety of the vessels and their cargo.
In the clip, some passengers on the ferry are seen being restrained from jumping into the shark-infested waters at the channel as the ship was almost hitting the ferry.
“This is a big tragedy. May God help them,” a man from a crowd of onlookers is also heard saying in the video clip.
The ship is forced to meander missing the ferry by a whisker veering to the left side of the ferry.
“Oh it has passed,” someone from the crowd shouted as they also demanded action from the Kenya Ferry Services management.
Yesterday, the country’s maritime regulator expressed shock, saying the incident was a wakeup call on KFS to train their coxswain and employees on safety at sea.
“Some coxswain at KFS are not certificated. This could have been a very big disaster,” said Kenya Maritime Authority flag and state port inspector, Captain Mbarak Zaunga.
Captain Zaunga said other than loss of life, it could have also caused big environmental disaster because of an oil spill.
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