The water transport sector in Lamu has received a major boost following the completion of three key jetties that have been under construction for one year.
In entirety, the renovation works on the Mangrove, Mtangawanda and Manda airport jetties cost Sh155 million.
Jetties are landing stages or small piers at which boats can dock or are moored.
These structures are a key element of Lamu water transport system as they are the only routes to and from Lamu island and surrounding islands.
The Manda airport jetty cost Sh48 million while the Lamu mangrove terminal jetty in Lamu island cost Sh35 million. Both are in Lamu West.
The Mtangawanda jetty in Lamu East cost Sh72 million.
The three underwent a year of renovations and expansion work after which they were officially commissioned for use by Transport CAS Wavinya Ndeti in August 2020.
One year down the line, the water transport sector continues to register tremendous improvement, with many users being able to access and use the jetties unlike before when long queues were the order of the day due to limited stage and the poor state they were in.
There is a notable reduction in boat accidents at the jetties as had been the norm before they were renovated, as there was no clearly defined place to anchor or dock.
Lamu Boat operator’s chairperson Hassan Awadh said the improved jetties had also reduced traffic of cargo and transport boats as there is now enough space to hold several vessels at a go.
“Back then, there were frequent accidents around the old jetties as people scrambled for packing. Right now, however, the number of boats using the jetties has doubled, but above all there is safety for the boat operators and passengers. There is enough space to safely anchor,” Awadh said.
Due to the dilapidated state of former jetties, boat operators plying Lamu island-Shella, Lamu island-Mokowe and Lamu island-Manda airport were limited in the number of trips they would make daily due to the limited packing space.
However, that has changed as coxswain Yusufu Abdalla explains, they can now make at least 10 trips daily due to expansive packing space.
So bad was the situation that boat operators had to carry passengers on their shoulders from their boats to the mainland as the boats had nowhere to anchor and so they would dock in the water.
This caused a lot of discomfort to both operators and passengers and also wasted a lot of time for both parties.
“We would carry passengers on our backs and it was quite risky and uncomfortable because some people were heavier than us and we also risked plunging into the water with them. We are glad that we can now do normal transport,” Abdalla said.
Sailors in Lamu have however appealed to the government to speed up completion of the Sh599 million Mokowe customs jetty, the largest in the region.
There have been complaints that renovation works on the jetty are extremely slow and have failed to put into consideration that the jetty is the major connection between Lamu island and the rest of the mainland areas of Lamu county.
The jetty had initially been scheduled for completion by the end of 2020 after which the date was pushed to February 2021,which came and passed without delivery.
The Mokowe Customs Jetty is designed to have a large waiting bay, a mini-petrol station, and a special ramp for wheelchair users and disabled persons.
There are also calls for the government to embark on the planned renovation of the Lamu King Fahad County hospital jetty.