Double-hull boats that clock speeds up to 20 kmph will augment ferry services

Ten modern double-hull boats that can travel at speeds up to 20 kmph are expected to join the State Water Transport Department’s (SWTD) fleet by mid-2014.

They will augment the existing boat services from the city to West Kochi and Kakkanad. The existing ferries can attain speeds of only up to 10 kmph. They are not fuel efficient and noise and vibration levels are high.

“Newer ferries bought using JNNURM funds will take care of these problems. They could be operated from Vyttila Mobility Hub to Infopark and on other routes,” said Shaji V. Nair, SWTD director.

Speaking at the launch of the Vyttila hub-Kakkanad ferry service a few days ago, Elias George, MD of KMRL and Chairman of Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority (UMTA), had said that the KMRL and the SWTD had charted out plans to introduce catamaran-type fibre-reinforced-plastic boats (FRP), which are delivered within a few months of the order being placed.

“Being lighter and faster than steel boats, they can cover the Vyttila-Kakkanad distance in 12 minutes.”

The newly-launched boat built by Steel Industries Ltd - Kerala (SILK) takes about 25 minutes to cover the distance. Plans are afoot to rope in more boat manufacturers so that passenger-friendly ferries can be introduced.

“Catamaran (boats with double-hull) type vessels create fewer waves, thus causing least disturbance to fishing nets strewn by people living along the coast. They are faster and more stable than conventional ferries,” a naval architect said.

Catamaran-type boats are around 35 per cent more costly, while installing imported engine will cost a little more, Mr Nair said. Naval architects have been for long demanding introduction of modern, fuel-efficient boats through the city’s navigable waterways.

Reacting to concerns raised by a few people on the safety aspects of FRP boats, Mr Elias, a naval architect himself, said that they are in operation across the world. “They are very safe, provided the design and construction quality are good.”

Plans are underway so that solar panels installed in modern boats can supplement their energy requirements, he said. To a question on granting stops for the Vyttila-Kakkanad service at Eroor and a few other places that have inadequate public transport connectivity, Mr Nair said that wooden centre posts (tangu kutti) would soon be erected around the boat jetty there so that boats can regularly call there.

On introducing a ferry on the Poothotta-Tripunithura-hub sector, he said that the water body has to be deepened at a few places, following which boats can ply.

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