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Shipping & Logistics

Transport network a death trap as number of accidents increases

Wilson Airport
A fire truck next to a plane that crash-landed last month outside Wilson Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya’s transport system is turning to be a death trap despite heavy investments and regulatory frame work to bring in sanity.

From the skies, which has been considered as one of the safest mode of transport, to the Likoni ferries and the notorious accident-prone roads, the safety of Kenyans is not guaranteed if recent incidences are anything to go by.

Whereas the aviation regulator admits that the recent occurrences brings into question the issue of passenger safety, with his counterpart at Kenya Ferry Services admitting that the ferries are a death trap, there appears to be no concrete action being taken to forestall other future accidents.

Kenyans have been left on their own as the three major transport systems the country becomes a ticking bomb with the recent events having instilled fear into travellers.

In a span of three months, serious air mishaps have been witnessed at airlines that operate from Wilson Airport.

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The first incident involved a Silverstone Airline that overshot the runway on takeoff, causing serious damages to the aircraft in an incident that was life-threatening for passengers who were on board the ill-fated flight.

The second incident involved the same airline where one of its aircraft from Lodwar Airstrip dropped its tyre forcing it to make an emergency landing in Eldoret Airport.

Asked why they have not grounded the airline after two serious incidents, Kenya Civil Aviation Authority Director General (KCAA) Gilbert Kibe said they have to follow the law and not emotions.

“We have to follow the law and not emotions or else we could be sued for wrongful grounding,” said Mr Kibe who insisted that they are doing all within their mandate to ensure the safety of passengers.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia did not respond on measures that the government is taking to correct the mess in the sector, but only asked if “KFS said that ferries are a death trap.”

A parliamentary committee was recently told that the ferries at the Likoni crossing are not safe for use and that it is a tragedy waiting to happen.

These vessels plying the channels have surpassed their service time by thousands of hours. One of the vessels was found to be operating on a 25-year-old steering system that was not compatible with its new engine. It had run for 16,000 hours — nearly double the recommended 8,500 hours — and badly needed overhaul.

The report also accused the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) of contravening International Safety Management (ISM) by failing to service its vessels as required, exposing passengers to accidents.

The report further said that the KFS did not meet the set ISM recommendations to ensure the vessels dry-dock after 8,500 hours of operations.

The KFS team, led by managing director Bakari Gowa, admitted that the agency is operating vessels that put more than 300,000 lives at risk every day, due to cash constraints.

The most recent incident, which happened last week involved a Safari Link Airline that had taken off from Lamu and veered of the runway upon landing at Wilson Airport.

“The Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) wishes to confirm that an aircraft registration number 5Y-SIJ a Textron Caravan C208B from Lamu to Wilson … after landing it veered off runway 14 due to deflated tyre,” said Mr Kibe.

The incident, which is the third in a span of three weeks to be witnessed on planes that operate at Wilson Airport, brings into questions the safety of the air transport in the country.

The aviation regulator says it has opened investigations into Silverstone Air Services to determine its safety compliance.

The audit is being performed in order to determine the level of compliance with the current civil aviation regulations and their own company approved manuals and procedures.

As per the provision of Civil Aviation Act No. 21 of 2013, amended in 2016, the KCAA is mandated to manage, regulate and operate a safe, secure and efficient civil aviation system in Kenya.

This comes even as the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) rates Kenya’s air safety record as “commendable” with a 78-per cent score in the last released results of 2017.

The score ranked Kenya at position 67 globally and seventh in Africa after South Africa, Mauritania, Togo, Egypt, Gambia and Madagascar.

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