Lamu, KENYA; Boat transport in Lamu town has been adversely affected following the closure of all the five floating petrol stations in the town which have been rendered non-operational owing to the biting fuel shortage brought about by the recent 16% VAT on petroleum products.
As at Friday morning, no single floating petrol station was open leaving boat operators in the town grappling on where to get the now out-of-reach commodity.
Boat operators and travelers are all stranded owing to the stalemate with a majority of the boats being seen still parked in their yards despite the high number of travelers who want to be ferried to various destinations.
Speaking in Lamu town on Friday, Lamu Boat Operators Association chairperson, Hassan Awadh said all the petrol stations have run out of fuel and have been unable to refill due to the stalemate surrounding the 16% VAT.
The few strong-hearted boat operators have been forced to cross over to mainland areas like Mokowe,Hindi and as far as Mpeketoni town in search of the petrol so that they can be able to carry on with business, a move seen by many as tiresome and draining.
A liter of petrol is being sold at Sh.150 with many of the operators saying they cannot afford to sustain such prices enough to keep them in business.
“Those of us who had some petrol stored away are the ones still doing business but even then, when they run out, they will join those of us who are unable to do anything. We go to as far as Mpeketoni for fuel and its extremely expensive with a liter going for Sh.150.How long can we sustain such a price in this kind of business? People have been jobless for the last two days and its only getting worse,”said Awadh.
Some of the floating petrol owners have been accused of trying to monopolize the boat business at this particular time by deliberately refusing to sell petrol to other boats and only fuelling their own.
“We are aware some of the petrol station owners have boats plying here. They say they don’t have fuel but we have seen them secretly fuelling their own boats. They are doing this so they can take charge of the boat business and its unfair that they are taking advantage of this situation to frustrate us. They are getting all the money now as we watch,”said Rueben Kahindi, a boat operator.
One of the petrol stations attendants who sought anonymity insisted that they were genuinely out of fuel and were waiting for a refill from their Mombasa distributor.
“We can’t tell when the refill will happen with the current state of things.Let’s just wait and see how all this unfolds,”he said.
At least 90% of transport in Lamu is done at sea.
However, the current situation has adversely affected transport as the current ratio of travelers exceeds by a large margin, the available number of boats.