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No hope for Nkhata Bay Jetty

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There is still uncertainty as to when the Nkhata Bay port will have a functional jetty after attempts to refloat the sunken one proved futile three months ago.

This means continued transport problems for people of Likoma Island and Usisya, since big water vessels such as Illala and Chilembwe cannot dock close to the shore.

Nkhata Bay Jetty succumbed to pressure of the Easterly Mwera Winds on January 15, last year.

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Management and Technical Consultant for Motal-Engil which government sub-contracted to rehabilitate the facility, Austin Msowoya, said yesterday that the first attempt did not work because the tanks beneath the pontoon are perforated.

“The tanks were not water tight, every time we inflated them water kept coming out as such it could not float, so we are working on the second option and we should be on site in the next two weeks,” Msowoya said.

He disclosed that top on the list of options is construction of a temporary pontoon, expressing skepticism if Motal-Engil would put up a new facility all together.

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“It is costing the company a fortune to work on the jetty, it is our wish to see a new jetty but I can’t disclose if there is such commitment,” Msowoya added.

In the meantime, the company has constructed stairs to the shoreline which Msowoya said was a desperate attempt to bring solutions to water transport users who are incurring huge costs following the jetty tragedy.

The Daily Times has observed that passengers are forced to board smaller boats in order to be ferried ashore from bigger vessels at a cost of K1, 000 an upward adjustment from K400 last year.

Nkhata Bay Jetty was installed in 1957 with a lifespan of 30 years. After its replacement 34 years ago, no major maintenance works have happened on it.

When contacted on what plans the Ministry of Transport has in the long term in order to serve the Malawian population at Likoma and Usisya, spokesperson James Chakwera pushed the issue back to Motal-Engil, saying they are responsible for any infrastructural developments at the jetty.

“The contract accords them full responsibility at that place. And if the current jetty can’t be refloated, they are the ones to put up a new one. All we can do for now is to go into discussions with them on the way forward,” Chakwera explained.

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