Boat fares in Lamu to hike over Petroleum levy

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Lamu, KENYA: Boat operators in Lamu have announced plans to hike fares for their services owing to the impending rise in the cost of petrol.

During his budget reading in June, Treasury CS Henry Rotich announced that petroleum products will attract a 16% VAT  starting September 1 this year.

The new directive means that a litre of petrol gains an additional Sh.17 on the initial price.

Speaking when they met in Lamu town on Tuesday, the Lamu Boat Operators Association chairperson Hassan Awadh said they had agreed to raise the fares starting the same date on the hike in petrol which is on September 1.

Awadh said the new prices will be announced to all those boarding boats in the region and will also be stuck on notice boards all across the region for ease of interpretation.

He said the last meeting between the boat operators and all other stakeholders will be held once the VAT is affected so as to agree to final costs of boat services in Lamu.

Lamu has over 5000 boat operators spread across the various islands in the archipelago.

“If petrol prices are going up that simply means we also have no option but raise fares otherwise if we choose to stick with the old prices, we shall be running at a loss which is not good in this kind of business. The new fares kick in as soon as the VAT kick off.If they start on September 1 that’s exactly the day boat fares in Lamu change too,”said Awadh.

He said they haven’t yet settled on the exact amount of money to add to the original fare but that they were looking at increasing the fares by between Sh.20 to 50 depending on the destination, distance involved and the type of boat being used.

Speedboats which are faster charge higher since they cover long distances fast.

There are slower motorboats with a lower engine power that charge slightly lower prices and move at a moderately slow pace.

For instance, traveling from Lamu town to the mainland in Mokowe costs Sh.150 in a speedboat while the same destination costs Sh.100 in a slow motor boat.

Awadh, however, says with the new fares, the same destination will cost Sh.200 in a speedboat and Sh.150 in a motorboat.

He says even before the new VAT is effected, the operators are already feeling the pinch as the petrol costs have already been increased from Sh.100 to Sh.130 a litre.

“We have to do all this so as to survive in this trade. Boats are very expensive to maintain not mention fuel.If we are buying a litre of petrol at Sh.130 now, what of when the VAT will be in place.All we want is for our customers to understand that we have to move with the tide and survive,” he said.

Those expected to be most uncomfortable with the new fares will be those traveling to far-flung islands like Mtangawanda, Kizingitini, Faza, Pate, and Kiunga.

Some of the far-flung islands like Kiunga, Mkokoni, and Kiwayu are located as far as on the Lamu-Somalia border.

Fares to these islands currently range from between Sh.500-1000 per person by speedboat.

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