Boat Operators at the Malindi Marine National Park and Reserve, who have been on strike for the last 12 days, resumed operations Monday.
This follows a truce between the boat operators and the park’s management brokered by Coast Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Assistant Director, Arthur Todor after hours of intensive negotiations.
The announcement by the Malindi Boat Operators Association has come as a great relief to holiday makers this festive season, who have had to miss important marine excursions after failing to get transport into the marine park.
The over 160 boat operators, who were demanding the immediate transfer of the Park’s Senior Warden, Mrs. Jane Gitau, resumed their services Monday and wooed local and international tourists to visit the park and enjoy the marine experience.
“We are now fully in operation and call on local and international tourists to visit the park in large numbers,” the Association’s Chairman, Twalib Albeity, said.
His sentiments were echoed by a veteran boat operator, Ali Baba, who said most of the boat operators’ concerns had been addressed by Mr. Tudor.
“We have been having a good relationship with KWS until a few days to Christmas when the park’s management introduced new levies which angered us,” he said. “We are glad that our concerns have been addressed.”
The boat operators had downed their tools to protest at the management’s decision to introduce new regulations and levies without consulting them.
Among the thorny issues that led to the strike was a directive to park all motorcycles outside the compound of the marine park offices, with those wishing to go into the compound with their motorcycles being charged a fee.
This directive, they claimed, was inconveniencing them, since they were being forced to carry heavy equipment from outside the park to their boats, and that their motorcycle’s security was not assured outside the compound. They also said they were also forced to pay parking fees for boats under repair.
The boat operators accused the senior warden of frustrating their efforts at the park and demanded her immediate transfer.
As a result of the strike, tourists were unable to go for excursions at the marine park and reserve, since that service is provided by the boat operators at a fee. The boat operators also provide tour guiding among other tourist service.
Tudor, who convened a crisis meeting with the boat operators on Sunday, told reporters on Monday that a solution to the problem had been found and that the boat operators had agreed to resume operations.
“We have solved most of the thorny issues. Other issues will be resolved slowly, but the most important thing is that they have agreed to resume operations from today,” he said.
He urged holiday makers to visit the park in large numbers as boats were available and ready to provide services to those who require them.
Njeru Kimani, a tourist from Nairobi, expressed joy at the resumption of the boat operations, noting that he would have a chance to venture into the sea and to have a feel of the marine experience.
By Emmanuel Masha