Lamu boat users will pay higher fares to reach their destinations following the expected high prices for petroleum products as from next month.
The move will be a big blow to residents who almost entirely depend on water transport. Most of the movement and transport by Lamu residents happens at sea.
Lamu County Boat Operators Association has announced plans to increase the fare charged on travellers after the expected value added tax (VAT) on fuel is effected.
Speaking to the Business Daily on Tuesday, Lamu Boat Operators Association Chairman Hassan Awadh said they will convene a meeting with all Lamu coxswains and other stakeholders in the sector this week to decide a way forward on the matter.
Lamu has more than 5,000 boat operators across various islands in the archipelago.
Mr Aawadh said they intended to increase fares by between Sh20 and Sh50, depending on the route and distance involved.
To travel by speed boat from Lamu Island to Mokowe, one is required to pay Sh150 while the same distance cost Sh100 when travelling by a slow motorboat.
But Mr Awadh said they will have to increase the amount to Sh200 by speed boat and Sh150 by slow motorboat so that they can also survive in the trade.
“As Lamu boat operators, we are already feeling the pinch even before the expected government implementation of the 16 per cent tax levy on petroleum products. We used to pay Sh100 for a litre of petrol but currently, we are paying Sh130 for the same litre of petrol.
"That means once the tax levy is implemented things will be even worse. We are therefore meeting this week with an aim of adjusting the fares. Our customers should expect a slight increase in fares and they should understand. We are struggling to survive,” said Mr Awadh.
Another boat operator Suleiman Kombo told water travellers in the county to prepare to dig deep into their pockets.
“They shouldn’t expect things to be normal. Once the taxation is effected, it will generally affect all public service operators. There is no doubt that fares charged on passengers will be hiked. It’s not our mistake,” said Mr Kombo.
Another boat operator Musa Athman said, “The moment petrol prices go up, we will have no option except adjusting our fares since the levy on fuel translates to an added cost to us.”
Those expected to be worst hit by the new levy in Lamu County are those travelling to far-flung islands like Mtangawanda, Kizinghitini, Faza, Mkokoni, Pate and Kiunga in the border of Lamu and Somalia.
Travellers currently pay between Sh500 and Sh1,000 by speed boat from Lamu Old Town to Mtangawanda or Kizingitini and the neighbouring islands.