As major roads and bypasses in Mombasa and its environs are nearing completion, the future of the Kenya Ferry Services (KFS) is looking bleak as it will lose millions of shillings it collects from hundreds of motorists using ferries daily.
The Dongo Kundu bypass will allow motorists to avoid the Likoni ferry crossing, saving them money and time.
The KFS is expected to start losing money next year when the multibillion-shilling bypass connecting Mombasa and Kwale counties is completed.
The 17km highway, also known as the Mombasa Southern Bypass, connects motorists from the western Mombasa mainland to the southern section without having to enter the island or crossing the Likoni channel. It is expected to ease movement of goods and services and boost the economy of the Coast region.
More than 6,000 vehicles and over 300,000 pedestrians use the Likoni channel daily. Motorists pay between Sh120 and Sh12,000. To curb corruption, the KFS introduced payments via mobile phone in 2020.
The KFS collects more than Sh21 million annually from motorists. Most goods imported from Tanzania, especially timber and foodstuffs, pass through the channel, but once the bypass is completed transporters are expected to start using the new road network.
The Dongo Kundu bypass will also come as a relief to tourists heading from Moi International Airport, as they will be able to avoid delays at the Likoni channel.
The bypass will also allow efficient and easy access to and from Mombasa because motorists will want to avoid city centre traffic.
The mega infrastructure project, under the Mombasa Port Area Road Development, is a game changer for North and South Coast counties.
Besides the development of new trading centres along the corridor, the projects will also revitalise tourism on the South Coast, where visitors are expected to spend less than 25 minutes on the road between Diani and Moi International Airport and the Mombasa SGR rail terminus.
It is also expected to improve the movement of goods between Tanzania and Kenya, especially with the establishment of the Dongo Kundu economic zone.
Mombasa Port Area Road Development projects include the Sh11.5 billion Miritini-Mwache-Kipevu link road, which is complete.
The Sh24.2 billion Mwache-Tsunza-Mteza road will connect Mombasa and Kwale counties.
The road will be interlinked with three bridges – the 1.4km Mteza, the longest in East and Central Africa, Mwache and Tsunza.
The road starts at the Mwache interchange and terminates at Dongo Kundu, in the Mwangala area, on the southern mainland of Mombasa County.
“It is important, particularly for Diani, which has been an award-winning beach,” said Dr Sam Ikwaye, the executive officer of the Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers (KAHC).
“It’s also significant for trade. Trade precedes tourism, so the highway will boost the sectors and potential of the South Coast and South of Mombasa which will be intense and significant for this region.”
Kwale, he said, will become the region’s second business hub because connectivity will be easier.
“Roads will open up Kwale for business. The ferry has been a big headache. In the past, we have had cancellations of programmes, meetings and tourists going to the airport because of the ferry challenges while crossing, so it is timely,” he added.
Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) chairman Newton Wang’oo said Dongo Kundu will open up the South Coast.
“It will open up the South Coast easily because using the ferry was challenging and the ferry fees for trucks was a headache. But with Dongo Kundu, it will be easier to avoid town and transport goods from the two counties easily without the [problems] of the ferry in the Likoni channel,” Mr Wang’oo said.
Dr Ikwaye urged the Kenya Ports Authority, which is in charge of the ferries, to diversify the vessels and use them for excursions to attract tourists.
“Water transport should now be utilised. Mombasa is an island, let's market it globally and regionally to attract more tourists,” he said.