BY ZUBEIR ATHMAN
Boat Operators and owners in Lamu County have issued a seven day ultimatum to the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) to make adjustments on the newly introduced tariff for annual craft operation licenses in the region.
The new tariff directive requires that vessel owners pay Sh 20,000 per year instead of the normal Sh3000.
Addressing journalists in Lamu, the Boat Operators and Owners protested the move by the authority, terming it as ‘harsh’ rule.
Led by the Lamu Boat Operators and Owners Association Chairman, Hassan Awadh, they threatened to down their tools and paralyze water transport across Lamu in a week’s time should their demands are not met.
Lamu has over 5000 boat operators working in the various islands within the archipelago.
Mr Awadh insists that it was unwarranted for KPA to outrageously increase the license operation fee for Lamu vessel owners since the transport business has already collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He also faulted KPA for making such move without consultations or informing the owners of boats of the decision.
“We are asking the KPA to adjust the harsh rules, including the hefty fee especially at a time when the Coronavirus pandemic has already left us with no profits in the trade.” Said Mr Awadh.
Mr Salim Abdallah said for decades they have been paying the annual fee of Sh 3000.
Abdallah said they will not comply with any other rules, including the one requiring them to pay Sh 20,000 annually.
“There is no business in Lamu at the moment due to Covid-19. Where are we supposed to get that outrageous amount. That is oppression and we will not allow it,” said he.
Boat operator Muhdhar Abdulrahman said ever since the confirmation of the first coronavirus case in Kenya, the number of tourists has gone down
Contacted, KPA Senior superintendent in charge of the Lamu Jetty Abdishukri Osman however defended the new fee increment saying the new tariff was implemented following a successful review in 2012.
He dismissed claims that the operators had not been informed of the increment prior to its enforcement.
“We announced the plan to enforce the tariff a long time ago. They should remember that this tariff was approved and effected back in 2012.Already, craft owners in Kilifi and Kwale are already operating under the new tariff.
“It is only in Lamu where the tariff had not been enforced due to terrorism and the likes,” said Mr Osman.
He however says talks are underway with a view to consider lowering the license fee for Lamu operators.