Return of chaos at Likoni ferry as floating bridge suspended

Commuters cross the ocean from Likoni to Mombasa Island through Likoni Ferry Channel on March 26, 2020. [File, Standard]

The floating bridge used to be operated by KPA staff between 4am and 8am and 4pm and 8pm during which ships could not enter or leave the Port of Mombasa.

KPA principal communications officer Hajji Masemo confirmed the high pressure caused by increased traffic at the Likoni channel.

He noted that the floating bridge caused ship delays of between 12 and 15 hours a day leading to complaints from shipping lines.

The time lost included an hour used to open the bridge using heavy machines for ships to pass through and another hour for closing it for pedestrians to use in the mornings and evenings respectively.

"The port was not operating for 24 hours until we closed the floating bridge. Shipping lines were then experiencing delays and there was a loss of business hours for the port," he said.

He however said the immediate measures now include improved management of traffic, deploying four ferries during peak hours at the channel and allocation of a ferry for passengers to ease congestion.

Ferry approaches

Traders have been cleared from all ferry approaches to ease the flow of vehicle and human traffic at peak hours.

KPA is also making arrangements to reinstate the Mtongwe ferry which is expected to serve up to 50,000 passengers a day to reduce congestion at the Likoni channel which operates 24 hours.

But the long-term relief for passengers is expected in June next year when the Sh28 billion Dongo Kundu Bridge across Mwache and Mteza creeks is scheduled to be completed.

"The Dongo Kundu Bridge is expected to offer a lasting solution when it is completed in June next year. For now, we have to come up with measures ensure ferries serve the passengers and motorists at Likoni channel despite the challenges," Masemo explained.

Kenya Ferry general manager Bakari Gowa also confirmed that the closure of the bridge has led to heavy traffic at the Likoni channel but noted that they had put in place measures to cope with the challenge.

KPA is also grappling with old ferries and aging ramps that need costly maintenance amid the increased traffic.

Retired President Kenyatta launched the construction of the footbridge at the time of Covid 19 restrictions when there were stampedes and long delays at the Likoni channel.

The bridge measuring about 840 metres long came as the first step after years of residents and tourism players calling for an alternative mode of crossing between Mombasa Island and the South Coast.

Intense consultation

The project was a result of intense consultation between Uhuru and Mombasa County leadership led by then-governor Hassan Joho, as they sought a solution to decongest the Likoni ferry channel during Covid-19.

Joho then confirmed that the president consulted him after security personnel injured a number of ferry users as they enforced the Covid-19 health guidelines.

"The floating bridge was mooted after the confrontation at the Likoni channel. The president started a conversation as we sought a solution to the safety of commuters," Joho had said.

Former Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia had said the president was pursuing an urgent solution to the build-up of human traffic at the Likoni ferry channel, particularly at peak hours.

"The president was alarmed by long queues of up to two kilometres long in the morning. This was a security matter and that is how this project was started," Macharia had explained.

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