With over a dozen of its boats under repair and 10 fibre boats branded unfit for operation, the State Water Transport Department (SWTD) would operate a brand new steel boat from Vyttila Mobility Hub to Kakkanad.

“The Steel Industries Kerala Limited (SILK) is building three steel boats for us. One of them will be remodelled as a water bus and operated in the Kakkanad route. The 50-seater vessel will have space to carry 10 two-wheelers too,” said SWTD’s Director Shaji B. Nair.

On whether the boat will ply faster than its counterparts in the West Kochi sector which have less than 10 km per hour speed, he said boats fitted with newer engines could travel at speeds of up to 18 km per hour.

More fuel needed

“But boats operating at higher speeds burn more fuel. Our faster boats consume about four litres of fuel more per hour than their slower counterparts. Faster vessels also create big waves that affect small boats in the vicinity. The direction of water current too has to be taken into account. These factors will be considered while operating in the Kakkanad route,” Mr. Nair said.

Head of Cusat’s Ship Technology Department K. Sivaprasad said operating passenger ferries at a speed of 18 km per hour in the Kakkanad route would be difficult since the Champakkara and Chitrapuzha waterbodies were narrow and the waves would topple small country boats.

“They could operate at up to 14 km per hour though, provided the vessels are designed and built well.”

He called for a right match between the hull, engine and propeller, to ensure speed and fuel efficiency.

“The right type of engine must be selected and the propeller must be custom made to suit the hull and engine. Though the propeller’s cost may go up a little, it will in turn enhance the life span of boats.

The propeller must properly convert the engine’s power into speed.”

Mr. Sivaprasad said a well-designed boat would not create waves in the perpendicular direction and hence could move faster. “They are also more fuel-efficient. Vessels with a good hull will create waves along their side and not away from them.”

25 year life span

The SWTD boats operating in Kochi have an average age of less than 15 years. Well-maintained vessels have a life span of 25 years.

Mr. Nair said the agency’s vessels would be better maintained once slipways come up at Alappuzha and Payyanur and the dry dock was ready at Alappuzha.

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