Homa Bay residents can breathe a sigh of relief after Mbita Ferries Services Limited resumed operations after more than two months of suspension of their services due to non-compliance.
The two vessels, owned by the private organization; MV Mbita Ⅰ that connects Kisumu to Mfangano Island in Homa Bay as well as the surrounding islands and MV Mbita Ⅱ connecting Mbita to Lwanda Kotieno in Siaya County, were grounded by Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) following irregularities in connection with compliance with their regulations.
A letter issued to the company and signed by KMA Director of Maritime Safety, Jeremiah Ojowi in December last year, stated multiple faults that required the company to suspend its operations until such a time that they would comply with safety standards regulating vessel operations in Lake Victoria.
The company technical manager Bernard Siro explained that they had imported some of the equipment and parts that were recommended by KMA and had made adjustments to suit the operation regulations.
“We had a few hitches with KMA that resulted in the suspension of our services, but we have so far managed to procure all the parts that we needed from abroad and are ready to resume normalcy in our operations,” stated Siro.
He however complained that some of the standards that have been set by KMA for the operation of the ferries were meant for bigger vessels unlike what is currently operated by the company.
Siro added that they would soon be launching a bigger ferry that would accommodate more passengers during movement within the lake.
“The company will soon launch a new bigger ferry that is currently in Mwanza in our neighbouring Tanzania, and this will allow us to move a larger number of passengers and ease the movement between the counties of operation,” Siro noted.
The stifled operations had affected numerous residents in the area who are dependent on the ferries to transport their goods from one county to the other or to move to their places of business across Lake Victoria.
The residents have for a while been forced to either restrict their movements or seek alternative modes of transport in the lake that are relatively expensive and unreliable.
By Omar Zabbibah and Sitna Omar