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Stalled Likoni ferries - the bane of South Coast tourism

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa Correspondent  Jul 10, 2016

"Just a few days ago I complained to you about the latest US travel advisories which had named Likoni and the ferries as a hot spot. Today, two ferries have again stalled and left thousands of traders, wananchi and even tourists stranded in long queues. Both sides of the Likoni channel had kilometer-long traffic jams. I don't think the ferry company really understands what damage such travel advisories can do. The company is failing Kenyans, is failing our tourism industry. We are tired of promises made by one CEO after the next that things will improve. I had a meeting at the South Coast and returned to my office to do that by SKYPE because I would have been there hours late," ranted a regular contributor from Mombasa when narrating his latest experience trying to cross the Likoni channel.

The ferries are subject to frequent breakdowns, often midstream, where drifting into the busy shipping lane into and out of the port of Mombasa poses added risks for passengers. Following a visit by President Uhuru Kenyatta together with his Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala, a few months ago inspected the operations of the ferry and in a matter of days was the then CEO getting the sack. Appointed acting CEO soon thereafter and only last week confirmed as substantive ferry boss, did Bakari Gowa promptly begin to use the same lame excuses and language of his failed predecessors, blaming all and sundry for the company's failure to keep all their ferries in good working order.

Calls are getting louder and louder to speed up the construction of the bypass link from the Nairobi to Mombasa highway and the international airport to the South Coast, the upgrade of the main road off the Nairobi to Mombasa highway towards Kwale and most notably, the construction of a bridge over the channel. All these measures however will take yet more time to complete and while construction is underway for the bypass road is a bridge still years away as no decision has been taken as yet by government if to go ahead or not.

Meanwhile can commuters across the Likoni channel never be quite sure when they arrive at their destination due to the regular breakdowns while safety risks remain whenever ferries stall midstream.

Tourism sources in Diani also complained as the popular Diani Touch Rugby Tournament is underway and less than expected visitors from Mombasa and the Northern mainland turned up at the venue yesterday, to a large part attributed to the delays caused by the ferry company on a busy Saturday only offering two instead of the regular four vessels.
'The arrival of people from Mombasa and the North Coast was just a trickle of what we expected to come. We then found out the ferries had problems again and I suspect many intending visitors turned their cars around and went home again. We hope to see them for the finals today but really, those people at Kenya Ferry Services are letting us down so often.

If it is not travel advisories it has to be home made problems. True, as you point out, there are many more flights now to Ukunda but the bulk of our visitors come by car across the channel using the ferry. When that link breaks down we are left scratching our heads in despair really' commented another Diani based source on condition of not being named.

Diani is a regular award winner when it comes to Africa's best beaches and some of the resorts are equally regular award winners and come highly acclaimed but all are subject to getting there in the first place.

Stalled Likoni ferries - the bane of South Coast tourism

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