Owners of about 350 private boat pens and jetties on Vypeen Island’s eastern waterfront have protested against a steep hike in licence fee imposed by the Cochin Port Trust. The fee hike has been described as being capable of seriously affecting the island’s economy, especially in Elamkunnappuzha panchayat.

The port authority has, however, said the fee for jetty owners who use these facilities for harbouring their own boats would only be Rs. 1,297 per year plus an inspection fee of Rs. 546 per jetty or slipway per year. The fee has been hiked to Rs. 1 lakh a year for those who rent out existing waterfront jetties for valloms (traditional boats) and boats belonging to others.

The port authority justified the licence fee hike by saying that private jetties falling within the Port Trust limits were originally established in the 1950s and 60s to handle barge traffic of vessels calling at the port. However, since water transport ceased to be dominant, these jetties fell into disuse and their new owners had been allowing the illegal berthing of fishing boats and vessels.

The antecedents of the crew and the origins of the vessels are never verified. Terrorist attacks on various Indian cities, especially in Mumbai, called for verification of the origins of the vessels and the antecedents of their crew.

The port authority claimed that the fishermen who earned their livelihood by using traditional craft and boats were kept out of the purview of the new regulations.

P.R. Murali, a member of the Elamkunnappuzha panchayat, said the local body had already passed a resolution against the fee hike. He echoed the views of Majnu Komath, convenor of Goshree Action Committee, that private jetties always harboured boats belonging to other owners and that the port authority was sticking to mere technicalities.

Mr. Komath said the fee hike had serious repercussions on the economy of Vypeen Island. The jetty owners ran different businesses based on the arrival of fishing boats.

Fisheries Coordination Committee and Goshree Action Committee will meet under the leadership of S. Sarma, MLA, on Monday to discuss issues related to the fee hike.

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