Lamu, KENYA: Unruly boat operators in Lamu will not be spared in the ongoing crackdown and reinforcement of traffic regulations.
Speaking in his office on Tuesday, Lamu County Commissioner Joseph Kanyiri said they shall equally be arresting any boat operators and passengers who fail to comply with the maritime safety regulations.
He said many boats operating in Lamu have no operation licenses and have been openly flouting maritime rules and hence putting the lives of their passengers and other sea users at risk.
The commissioner said no boats will be allowed to operate without registration and approval certificates from the Kenya Maritime Authority-KMA and the Kenya Ports Authority-KPA.
He sounded a warning to all boat operators in the region to brace for a bruising crackdown that will see all unworthy vessels impounded and owners charged for endangering lives.
“There seems to be an assumption that the crackdown is only for vehicles, unfortunately, we are extending it to the sea transport sector here. Wherever there is any form of transport, then there is bound to be a measure for supervision and that’s why we are also cracking down on boats and other sea vessels failing to comply to maritime regulations,” said Kanyiri.
Kanyiri said hundreds of maritime officers had already been deployed to various spots in the Indian Ocean to crackdown on such vessels.
“Its common practice for boats here to operate without safety gear for their passengers, we are talking of speeding in the ocean, why would any sensible person do that knowing very well you are on the water? Many of these boats you see here have no navigation lights yet they insist on operating at night, what guarantee do they have that they will not bump into each other or even bump into the many coral reefs in the ocean and cause loss of lives. We are cleaning them all out,” said Kanyiri.
Boat operators, however, said the move will only kill the industry further considering they are still reeling from increased fuel prices from the recently introduced 8% VAT on petroleum products.
“I don’t understand how someone can take Michuki rules from the road and impose them on us in the sea. They can’t treat us as though we own vehicles, we run boats. If they get real with that crackdown, then we will be finished since the hiked fuel prices have not done us any good and we have not even recovered from that. They should just concentrate on the road because even CS Matiang’i told them to focus there and not on us,” said Sharma Saleh, a boat operator in Lamu town.
Lamu has over 5000 boats plying the numerous islands in the archipelago.
Unlike many parts of Kenya where traveling and movement of people and goods is done by road, much of Lamu’s transport consists of boat travel at sea.
On Monday, hundreds of commuters were left stranded in Lamu as police moved in to crackdown on unroadworthy vehicles in the recently reinforced Michuki rules impounding 31 vehicles and 22 motorcycles in an operation that saw public road transport totally paralyzed.
Over 15 drivers, conductors, and motorcycle operators were also arrested in the crackdown.
Transport buses and shuttles plying Lamu-Mombasa were abandoned midway as drivers and conductors fled into the bushes to escape being arrested by police leaving passengers stranded with no apparent help.