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Boat operators’ strike cause transport paralysis across Islands

Commuters  across Lamu  were  on Wednesday left stranded on all jetties from Mokowe to Amu Island and even Mtangwanda  area after boat operators went on strike over alleged high handedness in enforcing boat safety and travel  regulations.

The  strike happened just a day after Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) conducted a high level meeting with law enforcers in Amu Island yesterday, seeking ways in which boat safety travel regulations would be implemented.

Led by KMA  area  branch Engineer, Edward  Mulongo, security agents on Wednesday launched a morning crackdown on all boats in Lamu to ensure their
“sea worthiness” as well as check on whether the boat captains and coxswains had their competence certificates.

Speaking to KNA on , boat operators voiced their displeasure at the crackdown which they say is a knee jerk reaction by KMA to appear as if they are working.

“Whenever we require KMA on the ground to assist in search and rescue efforts, they are never there, but they are very quick to demand fees from us the tax payers yet they are largely ineffective in Lamu,” Boat operators Chairman, Awadh  Babu stated.

With  most of Lamu Island’s travel being by sea, a spot check by KNA revealed travellers stranded with their wares, on  Amu Island  and Mokowe Jetty  with KMA and the police patrolling Lamu waters to ensure that the boat operators complied with the regulations

The  boat operators  also lamented that the KMA and KPA  were engaged in double taxation, with the KMA collecting  Kshs.15, 000 yearly while KPA were collecting Kshs.1, 500 per month in levies.

“We also have the county government on our neck, over levies despite the low returns that the boat business gives these days,” Salim Alwy, a boat captain said.

However, KMA has insisted that they were the ones charged with collecting levies, by the national government with the KMA Lamu branch officials insisting that they also regulate KPA boat vessels.

Mulongo stated that most boat operators operate under their own laws leading to most boat accidents and disaster.

The  Mkomani Ward MCA, Yahya  Ahmed “Basode” Shee, who also owns a fleet of boats in Amu Island stated that KMA do not engage with boat operators when they want to  enforce their laws.

He  said  KMA  was engaged in high handedness and questioned the maritime authority’s capacity to handle maritime issues in Lamu.

“The KMA officials in Lamu are lethargic when they are called upon to aid in search and rescue, with some of their officials going as far as to ask volunteers to contribute fuel for the KMA boat to go on search missions,” Basode said.

The  Lamu East Deputy County Commissioner (DCC), David Lusava however, insisted that the two stakeholders engage  amicably to resolve the stalemate.

He added that the boat operators need to appreciate that maritime laws are there to be followed with the KMA in Lamu to aid in their implementation.

“The maritime regulations are for the good of everyone who uses the sea, and it is important that the boat operators realise that going forward,” Lusava said.

By  Karimi  Kirimi/Hawa  Njenga

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