A representative of the tourist boat operators said the vessels were operating after complying with the safety regulations.

The Harbour police have begun action against tourist boats operating in the Kochi backwaters without safety clearance.

Four vessels — Mudra, Appoos, Goony Bird and Devikripa — have been asked not to ferry tourists in the backwaters following a directive from Chief Surveyor of the Ports Department P. K. Ajayan. The official had issued stop memo to these vessels on Monday after finding that they lacked safety certificates. He said the vessels operating without adequate safety measures and valid certificates could put the life of passengers in danger.

The Munambam police received the message from the Port authorities on Thursday evening and communicated it to the boat operators, said Harbour Station Circle Inspector K.C. Hariharan.

Of the four vessels, only one vessel could be spotted at the berth. The ban has been communicated to its operator. If any of the banned vessels took tourists, legal action would be initiated. Boats would be inspected for safety and firefighting equipment as suggested by the authorities, he said.

But the Chief Surveyor of Boats admitted the department lacked a mechanism to ensure that the boats didn’t carry passengers beyond its capacity. The passenger capacity of a vessel is decided after carrying out stability test. The number of life jackets, buoys and other safety mechanism to be maintained on the vessel is decided based on stability test. Only vessels that clear the test would be permitted to carry passengers on its upper deck, he said.

However, there is no regular mechanism to ensure that the boats abide by the directives of the Port authorities. The only option is to carry out random raids. The department has received stability test certificates from 104 boats. Another 50 boats were expected to file the reports shortly, he said.

A representative of the tourist boat operators said the vessels were operating after complying with the safety regulations.

K.D. Sajeevan, the general secretary of the Private Tourist Boat Operators Association (Sea Lord Jetty), said almost all the boats operating from the Jetty had obtained necessary clearances.

On the passenger safety measures, Mr. Sajeevan said most of the boat passengers were reluctant to wear life jackets on board. Even though the operators advise the passengers to wear them, they refuse. Sufficient number of jackets would be stored in the vessel, including its upper deck, for the passengers to wear in case of an emergency, he said.

Foreign tourists are given fresh jackets brought by their tour operators.

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