Transport between the island and the mainland in Lamu was paralysed on Monday after boat operators went on strike protesting a move by the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) to impose a kshs.9000 fee for a sea worthiness certificate.
The KMA is demanding that all coxswains obtain the certificate that is renewable annually, but the operators have resisted terming the fee unnecessary and too high.
Kenya Marine Officers on the island grounded all boats that had not met this requirement, and other KMA standards, grounding transportation to and from the island to a halt.
“These boats are supposed to be inspected for sea worthiness and thereafter given a sailing license by the KMA. The boat operators here don’t want to comply,” a marine police officer who asked not to be mentioned, told Baraka FM.
The officer said only four boats had complied with the regulations and that they had been allowed to sail.
The operators accused the Kenya Maritime Authority of double standards saying that they had already paid a similar amount to the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).
Hassan Awadh Hassan, chairperson of the Lamu Boat Owners Association said the KMA had not given them prior notice and that the operators had already paid Sh.3,500 to the KPA for this year’s licenses.
“They are imposing conditions meant to be observed by large ships and not small boats like ours. We will strike for as long as it takes because we can’t afford what they want us to pay,” Awadh said.
He said they would be forced to pass over the costs to boast users by increasing the fare if KMA did not relent.
An officer from the KMA said the operators had no choice but to comply with the law as stipulated in Merchant Shipping Act of the Kenyan constitution.
“The KMA is a regulator of what happens on the waters while the KPA ensures the necessary landing sites are well kept. If they paid to the KPA, that’s different. This is the KMA and we expect them to comply with every detail like other operators in the rest of Kenya,” the official said, adding that the operators had been given a two-week prior notice.