Long suffering Mombasa and South Coast residents as well as tourists got another dose of mischief from the Kenya Ferry Services company last Friday, when several ferries at once went out of service with technical problems.
On both sides of the Likoni channel did motorists abandon vehicles in the massive traffic jams which the breakdown created, missing work, appointments, shopping trips and notably flights, when stranded tourists failed to make it to the airport on time. Tourism stakeholders tore into the ferry’s management for what several sources over the weekend called ‘sheer incompetence’, singling out the company’s Managing Director Musa Hassan Musa for allegedly being disrespectful in brushing off callers when telling them to leave him to repair his ferries instead of having to answer the phone. While one of the crafts was on scheduled maintenance had two more ferries that day developed mechanical problems and had to be taken out of service for repairs, leaving only two ferries in service which were however overwhelmed by the traffic pileup.
‘Remember when you were at the coast I told you they want a fifty percent increase in fare for cars to cross’ asked one regular coast source before adding ‘We have suspicions that some of the breakdowns may be concealed labour action because there are issues which management never resolved with staff since the last round of strikes. Maybe it is time that some of the senior managers are sacked because the frequency of interruptions are too much and it spoils our name with visitors who are stuck. Those from the airport reach their hotel with hours and hours of delays, imagine how they feel. Those going on safari miss out on half a day at least and those going to the airport for their flights can easily miss them. Imagine the cost involved for people travelling on non-refundable tickets. The ferry company should be held responsible for such damages. Let them sort out their problems first before they ask for more money again!’
While construction of the new bypass from the Nairobi to Mombasa highway and the international airport to the South coast has now started will it still be years before the alternative route is ready and two new ferries are only expected to arrive in the country by the end of next year, a recipe for yet more such situations when technical faults cause one or more ferries to be grounded at the same time.