Why Lamu boat operators are carrying passengers on their backs

A Boat at the deadly Mkanda channel in Lamu county.The search for a fishing dhow that went missing in Mambrui area of Malindi entered its third day on Wednesday PHOTO COURTESY

Lamu, KENYA:Boat operators inMtangawanda Lamu East have been forced to carry passengers on their shoulders and backs to help them cross over to the jetty following the detachment and subsequent loss of the jetty’s pontoon last Friday.

The detachment of the pontoon which is yet to be recovered had adversely affected transport into and out of the Mtangawanda jetty.

Speaking in Lamu town on Thursday,Yusuf Islam,a boat operator between Amu and Mtangawanda said apart from the fact that the number of those traveling greatly reduced since the pontoon detached, they are forced to carry the few who travel out of and into the boats, a mandate that had previously been made easy by the pontoon.

The pontoon is a heavy floatable metal used to load and offload cargo and passengers from marine vessels.

“However since there is no place for us to offload or load from, we have become the pontoons. We have to carry people into and from the boats. The same applies to the cargo too. Its really draining but since we want the money, we do it. We feel used though and helpless, there is nothing much we can do until the pontoon is fixed again,” said Islam.

The boat operators are appealing to the national government to save them the agony and install a new pontoon already.

They say carrying the passengers to shore is risky as one can easily lose their step and plunge into the ocean.

“The area where the pontoon is situated is extremely deep and that’s where we also have to carry people across. One small misstep and you plunge into the ocean,” added Islam.

Locals are also accusing the government of laxity in implementing the required renovations of the dilapidated jetties in the region.

Zena Athman said “We hear Sh.5 Million has been given for renovation of the Mtangawanda jetty but we are yet to see anything.No one has even come to asses the jetty since the pontoon detached yet we are made to believe something is being done,”said Athman.

Meanwhile, efforts to retrieve the pontoon that detached from the Mtangawanda jetty last Friday has entered its seventh day with no sign of the heavy metal device in sight.

The search is being conducted by the Kenya Ports Authority-KPA, the Kenya Maritime Authority-KMA, Marine police, the Rapid Border Patrol Unit-RBPU and a tugboat team from the Lapsset.

The KMA Director General George Mcgoye confirmed that the pontoon is yet to be recovered and that its exact location at sea remains unknown.

Sea operators have been asked to be extra cautious to avert collisions with the pontoon.