Relief for locals after resumption of ferry services in Lake Victoria

The new ferry christened MV Chamaunga at the shore of Lake Victoria in Mbita Town. [James Omoro]

Locals travelling from Migori and Homa Bay counties to Kisumu through Lake Victoria can now breathe a sigh of relief after the ferry service provider resumed operations.

The Mbita Ferry Services Limited has not been operating since December 22.

This is after the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) stopped its MV Mbita I and MV Mbita II from operating over safety concerns.

MV Mbita I used to provide services between Mbita and Mfangano Islands in Homa Bay County.

MV Mbita II offered similar services between Mbita and Lwanda Kotieno in Siaya County, the route leading to Kisumu.

The restraint order paralysed transport in the area.

In an effort to address the rising demand, Mbita Ferry Services has now introduced a new ferry to operate between Mbita and Lwanda Kotieno.

The ferry began operations on Thursday.

The new vessel dubbed MV Chamaunga beamed delight in the faces of many passengers.

The vessel has a capacity of 200 passengers and 17 saloon cars.

“Let our clients know that ferry services have resumed,” Mbita Ferry Services Limited Technical Manager Bernard Siro said.

The vessel spends a maximum of 45 minutes travelling from Mbita to Lwanda Kotieno and vice versa.

He assured the public that the firm had complied with basic requirements from KMA. 

"The vessel is safe for use and it will enable our passengers to arrive at their destinations at the right time. It meets the KMA requirements," he added.

The company however faulted the KMA for setting very high safety standards for compliance.

He argued that some of the requirements should only be applied to vessels operating in the sea.

“Our case only involves a short distance of crossing Lake Victoria from Mbita to Lwanda Kotieno and from Mbita to Mfangano Island. But the KMA gave us very high standards which should only be applied to a vessel that operates in an ocean,” Siro said.

He appealed to the KMA to review the stand by considering vessels that operate in Lake Victoria.

According to Salome Adhiambo, a fish trader in Mbita town, the vessel will boost trade by enhancing the transport of fish.

“We have been operating our businesses through difficulties due to lack of a ferry. This vessel will improve the growth of our town,” Adhiambo.

Residents said the vessel will enhance safety and shorten the distance travelled from Mbita to Kisumu.

“The vessel will cushion us from the use of wooden boats which are prone to accidents during strong winds,” said Tina Akoth, a passenger.

However, passengers who travel between Mbita and Mfangano will wait for some time because their vessel is still undergoing repair.