BY PETER KOMBE AND MWAKWAYA RAYMOND MWAKWAYA
The government is facing challenges to recover the remains of Mariam Kighenda and her daughter Amanda since they slithered into the sea aboard mv Harambee seven days ago.
Transport cabinet secretary James Macharia, speaking at the ferry island crossing point on Saturday (October 5), says the recovery operations are being hampered by the sea terrain within the channel and its immediate environs.
Based on the depth of the sea, some maritime ‘experts’ indicate that the ill-fated vehicle could have been swept by the under currents or streams to beyond the spot where it slided off the ferry last Sunday (September 29).
But the CS cites the rugged terrain, bad weather, strong current flowing under the sea and incoming or outgoing of vessels as some of the reasons impeding the search operations.
To alleviate such incidents, Mr Macharia says, the government is working on long term solutions to gradually phasing out ferry services at the channel.
Coincidently, this incident happened in the wake of the government signing an agreement with Japanese government to construct a bridge off the Likoni channel that will connect and open up the South Coast.
This notwithstanding, through a public-private partnership the government has set aside land for an Austrian company to start cable car services with intention to ferry over 300,000 people per day.
According to the CS the PPP program users will be required to pay Sh20 per trip across the channel at any given time with an aim to boost the tourism sector.
Plans are underway, he says, to buy a new fleet of ferries to replace the ageing mv Nyayo, Kilindini and Harambee in the next five years.
The second ferry, still held up in Turkey, is expected at the beginning of next year.
To avoid accidents, the CS asks ferry users to adhere to the laid down rules and regulations by KFS to ensure safety and efficient services at the crossing points.
“Kenya Ferry management must ensure all the users strictly abide to the set regulations of operations on either side of the channel,” he adds.
The secretary condoled with the bereaved family before being joined by the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who paid an impromptu visit and diected the ongoing dredging exercise stopped to pave way for the search operations.
“Due to the ongoing dredging exefcise, divers are finding it diffuclt to conduct the search because of poor visibility underneath the waters within the channel,” he said.
Unpredictable weather and scattered rains have added to the misery of the divers who have been forced to call off operations intermittently since proper recovery excerise started on Monday (September 30).
On Friday, a Swedish diver Volker Bassen joined the operation teams but after hours of scanning and later diving into the murky seabed close to the Mbarak Wharf he concurred with the Kenya Navy that channel was treacherous for divers.
“We scanned for a while the area where ferries land (island side) and went under but visibility is poor and terrain treacherous down there,” he told journalists who had camped there to capture the moment.
The search operations are supposed to get a boost from South African divers who are expected to join the Kenya Navy led exercise.
They will be joining the other 16 who have been working round the clock to retrieve the victims and their wreckage.