With less than two months left for the onset of Kerala’s tourist season, the Department of Ports (DoP) is getting ready to seize house boats and tourist vessels that do not conform to Kerala Inland Vessel (KIV) Rules.
This is because just about 11 per cent (338) of the over 3,000 boats that operate in the State find mention in the ‘safe list’ published recently by the department.
The grave violation of safety norms continue despite major accidents in the recent past.
Four tourists from Tamil Nadu lost their life in a house boat accident, while a young couple from Visakhapatanam on a ‘shikara’ drowned in Alappuzha a few months ago. The ‘shikara’ was found to be operating despite a ‘stop memo’ issued by the Ports Department.
The department’s chief surveyor C.K. Ajayan said so far only 2,000 of the 3,000 boats have been inspected. “We have decided to issue stop memos to owners prior to seizing vessels that are evading the safety net. Many boats owned by the police, forest department and other agencies are yet to obtain licence and registration from DoP.”
The enforcement drive is expected to gain momentum following a review meeting held in Thiruvanathapuram on Friday. It has been decided to publish a list of safe boats on the websites of DoP, Kerala Tourism and the District Tourism Promotion Councils (DTPCs), so that tourists may steer clear of unsafe vessels.
Boat accidents have played spoilsport with the expectations of the State’s tourism stakeholders during the past tourist seasons. A major boat accident at Thekkady in 2009 claimed the life of over 40 people, including that of foreign nationals. “It affected tourist arrivals and the prospects of Thekkady as a popular destination,” said S. Harikishore, Director of Kerala Tourism.
He said Kerala Tourism and the State government did not want boat accidents to tarnish the State’s image as a quality tourist destination.