• Lamu boat operators have announced plans to increase boat fares in a county where 99 per cent of movement and transport is done on the sea.
  • The boat operators intend to increase fares by between Sh20 and Sh50, depending on the route and distance involved, according to Mr Awadh.

Life at Kenya’s tropical island, Lamu island, is about to get hard.

Lamu residents will have to dig deeper into their pockets after boat operators announced plans to increase boat fares in a county where 99 per cent of movement and transport is done on the sea. This follows the expected increase in prices of petroleum products from next month.

Lamu County Boat Operators Association has announced plans to increase the fare charged on travellers once the expected value added tax (VAT) on fuel comes into effect.

Speaking on Tuesday, Lamu Boat Operators Association Chairman, Hassan Awadh, said they will convene a meeting with all Lamu coxswains and other stakeholders in the sector this week to decide a way forward on the matter.

“As Lamu boat operators, we are already feeling the pinch even before the expected government implementation of the 16 per cent tax levy on petroleum products. We used to pay Sh100 for a litre of petrol but currently, we are paying Sh130 for the same litre of petrol.

"That means once the tax levy is implemented things will be even worse. We are therefore meeting this week with an aim of adjusting the fares. Our customers should expect a slight increase in fares and they should understand. We are struggling to survive,” said Mr Awadh.

More than 5,000 boat operators currently ply their trade across various islands in the Lamu archipelago.

The boat operators intend to increase fares by between Sh20 and Sh50, depending on the route and distance involved, according to Mr Awadh.

“They shouldn’t expect things to be normal. Once the taxation is effected, it will generally affect all public service operators. There is no doubt that fares charged on passengers will be hiked. It’s not our mistake,”  Suleiman Kombo, a boat operator in Lamu said.

Those expected to be hard hit by the new fare hike are those travelling to far-flung islands like Mtangawanda, Kizingitini, Faza, Mkokoni, Pate and Kiunga in the border of Lamu and Somalia.

“The moment petrol prices go up, we will have no option except adjusting our fares since the levy on fuel translates to an added cost to you,” Musa Athman, another boat operator added.

To travel by speed boat from Lamu Island to Mokowe, one is required to pay Sh150 ($1.5) while the same distance cost Sh100 ($1) when travelling by a slow motorboat.

Once the fuel levy comes into effect, the same destination will cost Sh200 ($2) by speed boat and Sh150 ($1.5) by slow motorboat.