The Mtongwe Ferry has resumed operations after a five-year hiatus, promising easy travel for more than 30,000 people who cross the Likoni channel daily.
President Uhuru Kenyatta launched MV Likoni on Monday in a move expected to decongest the busy channel, which has been facing major challenges due to old vessels and increased numbers of commuters.
“We will add more vessels at this channel when two new ferries arrive in June or July this year,” Mr Kenyatta said. Kenya is importing the two vessels from Turkey at a cost of Sh2.2 billion.
Mr Kenyatta, who was accompanied by Deputy President William Ruto, said the government was investing heavily in infrastructure at the Coast to open up the region for investment and tourism, which will create job opportunities for the youth.
“We are going to open a new road from Samburu to Kinango heading to Kwale and we know it will also open up the region. We are investing in water, electricity and roads because we know they will attract investors to put up industries here, grow the economy and create jobs” he said.
The resumption of ferry operations is a big relief for thousands of Mtongwe residents who have missed the service since 2012. The Kenya Ferry Service (KFS) gave the Mtongwe berth a face-lift at a cost of Sh6 million.
KFS managing director Bakari Gowa said recently the revival of the Mtongwe service is part of efforts to decongest Likoni and boost the local economy.
“We understand that people from Mtongwe have been affected by the suspension of service at this channel and that is why we believe restoring it will impact on economic activities,” said Mr Gowa.
Ferry services at Mtongwe were halted after the government decommissioned two old ferries for being unseaworthy.
Dilapidated infrastructure also caused withdrawal of services. More than 270 people died in a ferry disaster at Mtongwe In 1994, one of Kenya’s worst maritime mishaps. The withdrawal of the vessels put pressure on ferries on Likoni channel leading to congestion.
Mtongwe residents also complained that lack of ferry services led to a drop in the value of their land and homes.
Currently five ferries; Mv Likoni, Mv Kwale, Mv Harambee, Mv Kilindini and Mv Nyayo are operational at the channel. Mv Nyayo returned last month after undergoing repairs which included overhauling of engines and installation of generators.