All the 4,000-odd boats operating in the State's inland waterways will henceforth have to comply with the new norms prescribed in the (Kerala) Inland Vessel Rules 2010, for obtaining or renewing licence.
The rules framed by a committee headed by B.R. Menon, Advisor to the State Government on Developing Inland Waterways and Ports, took effect on April 30. With this, the Chief Inspector of Boats (who is from the Irrigation Department) will cease to be the licensing authority for boats. Now onwards, a committee headed by marine engineers and naval architects will inspect the boats and issue or renew licences.
S.K. Pyarilal, former head of the department of ship technology of Cusat, who was a member of the committee which framed the rules, said that houseboats too would have to comply with the new norms.
“Most of the recent boat accidents in Kerala happened because the licensing authority was not competent enough to inspect the vessels and certify their fitness. The officials inspecting boats must have an idea of naval architecture.” There are two fundamental safety aspects for boats — they should neither sink nor capsize. The Kumarakom tragedy was caused by water leaking into the hull, which resulted in the vessel sinking. In the case of Thettaked and Thekkady accidents, the boats capsized.
The design philosophy should be such that even if the water enters the hull, the boat should not sink. For this, naval architects make a ‘flooding calculation', based on which the vessel has to remain afloat even if a compartment of the hull is flooded. Rescue teams can use this time to save the stranded passengers, Mr Pyarilal said. This had also been suggested by the Justice Narayana Kurup Commission, which had enquired into the Kumarakom tragedy.
Secondly, the boats must be stable even if they tilt to one side so that they do not capsize.
Capsizing is more dangerous than sinking since passengers of a sinking vessel will have up to 30 minutes to escape. Capsizing happens within seconds and people will not have time even to ready the life-saving equipment on board. Passengers will not be able to swim to safety if they are trapped inside.
To ensure stability, three drawings or calculations have to be prepared using software prior to the building of the vessel.
It is also mandatory to do an inclining experiment, to ascertain the actual centre of gravity and weight. A dynamic analysis too is done, to test the boat's stability when passengers crowd to one side, a strong wind blows or the boat takes a sharp turn. This is because a boat that looks safe in the static condition can be dangerous in the dynamic condition.
The design philosophy should be such that the boat should not sink or capsize, even if it is overcrowded.
Till recently, boats which fit the stipulations laid down in the Inland Vessel Act of 1917 were given licences. “These requirements had been framed for country canoes that transported goods a century ago.
Though there was mention of stability, the methodology to be adopted and the qualification of professionals who had to certify the vessels were not mentioned.
This resulted in mechanical engineers in the Irrigation Department carrying out the survey and inspection of vessels, despite having little knowledge of survey and boat building,” Mr Pyarilal said.