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Ferry woes not about to end

MOMBASA, Kenya, Jan 16 – Frequent breakages that have dogged ferries operating in Mombasa are expected to go on a while longer, following the delay in delivery of two new vessels.
It has now emerged that the German manufacturing firm which was supposed to supply the vessels wants more time to manufacture them.

Transport Minister Chirau Mwakwere confirmed on Friday that the firm had requested for more time to complete construction of the vessels that would cost Sh1billion. The new ferries, he said, would now be delivered mid this year and not in March as earlier expected.

“The manufacturers communicated that they needed more time since they have to make adjustments before the new ferries are complete,” he said.

The minister urged ferry users to be patient and cooperate with Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) for making efforts to deliver quality services and added that he was satisfied with the work at the ferries in both maintenance and operation.
The minister blamed the ferry woes on past poor management, which failed to deal with the issue of buying new ferries to replace the old ones, which were bought  at least 40 years ago.

He said African Marine manufactured the newest ferry in 1975, while the other was made in 1969.

“The remaining two ferries are second hand vessels from the Far East and had been used for over 10 years before being brought into the country,” he said.

He clarified that the ferries have been insured, registered and surveyed by the Kenya Maritime Authority under the international guidelines and have been passed as seaworthy.

The new KFS chairman Joseph Kingi said the board had put in place a program to ensure the fleet was updated and would see to it that an additional three ferries would be bought after three years.

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At the same time, Mr Mwakwere said that the Government would not allow the licensing of a second grain-handling firm at the Mombasa Port.

Currently, Grain Bulk Handling Limited (GBHL) handles most of the grain imports following agreements it had entered into with the Government eight years ago.
The minister said that GBHL handles only 65 percent of imported grains. “The remaining 35 percent of imported grains is handled by private companies at the port, most of which are owned by millers,” he said.

Mr Mwakwere said that the Lamu port, once complete, would accommodate about eight to 15 ships at a go, and said it would be the most convenient area to set up a second grain terminal.

The minister added that the port, despite its efforts to be efficient, was still congested with not only containers but also in terms of space for major industrial development.

The government was not prepared or convinced that there was need for a second grain handler, said the minister.

The Kenya Ports Authority had late last year advertised for bids to set up a second grain handling facility but later cancelled it under unclear circumstances.


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