Malawians who cannot do without water transport are paying an extra cost to use passenger ships at Nkhata Bay Jetty as Malawi Shipping Company (MSC) ponders to abandon the crumbling port in preference for construction of a new one.
The port has been lying in shambles with no repairs in sight since January when its pontoon-the bridge which adjoins with arriving or departing vessels-sunk into Lake Malawi due to Mwera, the strong south-easterly winds prevalent on the continent’s third-largest freshwater lake.
Ever since, arrivals and departures, especially Malawians from Likoma and Chizumulu islands as well as Usisya on the northern shoreline of Nkhata Bay, have been seen paying up to K300 to use private boats that take them to and from passenger ships that dock almost 100 metres off shore.
However, the citizens, who rely on water transport as the lifeline to the mainland where they acquire the majority of basic needs, will have to wait longer as the MSC concessionaire, Mota-Engil, seems to think repairing the port could be a waste of time as dwindling water levels have rendered it irrelevant.
In an interview yesterday, Austin Msowoya, who speaks on behalf of Mota-Engil on marine services, said the company has written government to evaluate the feasibility of repairing the dilapidated port given that it has been rendered almost useless by the receding lake.
He said: “When the port was built in 1958, engineers envisaged the structure being used for almost 50 years. We need millions of dollars to repair the port and it may be a waste of resources if we repair the same structure now. We may end up spending more than it would require to build a new one.”
Senior Chief Nkumbira of Nkhata Bay feels leaving the rusty port affects the way Malawians in Likoma District and Usisya travel and do business.