August 5, 2020

We are incharge of Likoni channel under Covid 19 directive, Kenya Ferry Services told

Governor Hassan Joho addressing the media flanked by the Coast regional coordinator John Elungata and interior and coordination of national government chief administrative secretary Hussein Dado on Saturday, March 28, 2020 Images by Mwakera Mwajefa

BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA

After the police brutality witnessed on Friday evening hours before the national curfew (March 27) started, Saturday epitomised ‘confusion’ between the multi-agencies security team and the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) operation teams manning the island and mainland ramps at Likoni channel.
Although it (Saturday) experienced some semblance in terms of sanity compared to the previous day, the multi-agencies’ second day, however, registered conspicuous lack of a central command or duties delegation on dealing with the boarding or disembarking of vehicular or human cargo from the ferries.
The supposed free flow of services looked ‘cumbersome and time consuming’ with each ferry taking an average of 20 minutes for boarding or disembarking that saw time and again the KFS managing director Bakari Gowa being forced to intervene at the mainland ramp.
This writer witnessed him darting here and there to issue directions to the ramp controllers and guides to quicken the processes at the busy channel that normally handles about 6,000 vehicles and 300,000 on daily basis.  
It seems the Friday takeover by the multi-agencies security team had brought with it some ‘hiccups’ on how to conduct business at both ends of the operation zones that are normally coordinated by the operations manager, operations superintendent, coxswains, operations supervisors, deckhands, ramp controller and assistant security officer.

CONFUSION

In fact, the confusion became evident when Mombasa County Governor Hassan Joho flanked by the Coast regional coordinator John Elungata arrived with their big team in tow at the island ramp to raise their concerns over the previous day’s events.
Their arrival and occupation of one section of the ramp temporarily blocked the main motorists’ waiting bay before being allowed to board docked ferries.
Expressing concern over this blockage, a senior KFS operation manager approached his Kenya Coast Guard Service counterpart but the latter declined to allow the vehicles to board the waiting ferry until the Joho function was over.
The ensuing altercation caused about 10 motorists to fail accessing mv Kilindini that had docked to carry vehicular cargo forcing them to wait for mv Likoni that was discharging at the mainland side of the channel thus delaying them for 40 minutes.
For over an hour, the Governor’s event caused an interference of operations before his team comprising of Senator Mohamed Faki, MPs Mishi Mboko (Likoni), Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita) and Asha H Mohamed (County MP) boarded mv Jambo for the one metre ‘social distance’ demonstration by KCGS personnel.
Motorists and commuters boarding mv Kilindini and mv Jambo respectively on the second day of the multi-agencies (KCGS and NPS) take over at the mainland ramp on Saturday, March 28, 2020
Confronted over this misunderstanding aboard the ferry, the KCGS director general Brigadier Vincent Naisho Loonena said their duties was to ensure social distance was observed by all ferry users.
“If something of the sort happened, then it is very unfortunate because we are not here to interfere with the KFS operations,” he said.
According to him they were working in liaison with the ferry personnel to ensure meticulous and well-coordinated service delivery with minimum confusion or delayed operations.

INCHARGE

But contacted on the same, Mr Elungata was categorical that the National Police Service (NPS) and KCGS had taken charge of ferry operations and not KFS whose only duty was to provide ferries at the channel.
“During this extraordinary time of Covid 19 pandemic, the Kenyan police and Coast guards have taken the running of this channel until otherwise advised to the contrary,” he said adding that the KFS personnel would only be offering logistics support.
While issuing stringent measures in the fight against coronavirus in the country, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on Wednesday (March 25) that KCGS and NPS would take charge at the Likoni channel to contain the spread of the novel disease.
Due to this, Mr Elungata in consultation with Governor Joho issued new ferry operation schedules that would start from Sunday (March 29) in order to comply with the Presidential directive on the prevention of Covid 19 in the country.
The revised KFS operation schedules run from 5 am – 11 am ferries would be available only for commuters while from 11 am – 2 pm the ferries would be available for cyclists (boda boda/tuk tuk) and vehicles.
Again from 2 pm – 6.30 pm the ferries would only carry commuters to beat the curfew imposed by the government from 7 pm – 5 am.
Governor Hassan Joho flanked by Coast regional coordinator John Elungata and Interior and coordination of national government chief administrative secretary Hussein Dado lead other Mombasa County leaders in social distancing demo aboard mv Jambo on Saturday, March 28, 2020

SECURITY AND SAFETY

For security and safety purposes, some members of the KFS’ department of operations expressed fears that leaving the KCGS and NPS to man operations without their input could be catastrophic because of their vast experience.
“Take for example mv Jambo you must be in the know that it cannot carry vehicles whose height exceeds 3.6 metre or else you damage the ceiling of its upper deck,” said one of the ramp controllers.
The controller also questioned the new ferry operation schedules saying they failed to consider the sea tides that are not static but dynamic to help them know when to carry loaded trailers or abnormal loads.
“Tides vary and they will not always be between 11 am and 2 pm when the new schedules indicate the duration to ferry vehicular cargo only,” the controller says adding the revised operation timetable should be flexible to accommodate tidal time.
Again the controller points out that the crossing channel is a busy traffic route for incoming and outgoing ships that make their call at the Kenya Ports Authority facilities to load or discharge bulk cargo and containers.      
The ongoing dredging at the port, according to the controller, is also a cause of delays at the crossing channel due to the in-and-out of the dredging vessels carrying their discharge to the deep sea off the Diani beachfront of Kwale County.
To make the new operation schedules work, the controller urges KCGS and NPS to factor in all the identified challenges so that services at the channel can be smooth and seamless for all the users.

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