The Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) has distanced itself from the deficiencies on the MV Harambee ferry that led to the death of a woman, Mariam Kighenda, and her four-year-old daughter Amanda Mutheu, at the Likoni channel on September 29, 2019.
A report presented in court shows that the authority had identified defects on the vessel and advised the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) to correct them before it resumes operations.
Appearing before Mombasa Chief Magistrate Martha Mutuku, former KMA Director General George Nyamoko said it was the responsibility of KFS to ensure passenger safety of the vessel before use.
“I don’t think KMA failed as a regulator. It is the responsibility of the vessel owner to ensure compliance with safety measures” he said.
The mother and her daughter died after their car slipped from the faulty vessel and plunged into the Indian Ocean less than seven minutes into the journey.
Ms. Kighenda had parked the vehicle on the right side of the ferry. The accident occurred midstream as the vessel was taking passengers from Mombasa mainland to the Island.
It took 13 days before the bodies were retrieved 45 meters to the sea bed.
Mr. Nyamoko pointed out that the deficiencies in the ferry had been noted in an inspection carried out on February 6, 2019, seven months before the tragedy.
According to the witness, the faults identified were addressed and a seaworthiness certificate was issued by the agency.
“The anomalies were addressed, but I attribute the accident to the age of the ferry and lack of constancy in maintaining the vessel,” he said
Following the accident, Mr. Nyamoko said, the vessel was re-inspected on October 15, 2019.
In this re-inspection, various equipment was found onboard including life jackets, life buoys, and rigid life rafts, which are used in case of an emergency.
However, the former DG said the service for a number of portable fire extinguishers onboard was found to be overdue since August 2019.
“Forward and aft prows were found to be non-operational due to failure of the hydraulic lifting system and the aft prow flaps corroded. The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) were not presented during the inspection,” he said.