Kochi

SWTD to launch 24 modern boats

High-speed ambulance vessels with capacity to carry 25 persons also on anvil

The State Water Transport Department (SWTD) has finalised March as the deadline to roll out its first two partly air-conditioned ferries to be operated on Vaikom-Ernakulam and Alappuzha-Kottayam routes.

Another 22 modern vessels that will be operated as ferries, tourist vessels, and ambulances in Ernakulam, Alappuzha, Kottayam, and Kollam will be launched by the end of the year. Their funding is being met from the ₹22-crore budgetary allocation in 2017-18 and ₹24.20 crore set apart in the 2018-19 Budget for the department.

“A technical committee formed to supervise the construction of the boats at two private yards approved by the Indian Register of Shipping (IRS) at Aroor conducted a review a week ago. Each vessel can carry 50 passengers in the air-conditioned section and 70 passengers in the non-AC area. They will be launched in March, while commercial operations will begin in April,” said Shaji B. Nair, Director, SWTD.

The fare for travelling in the AC area will be announced just before the launch, so that the vessels can achieve break-even status at the earliest. The AC space has been hewed out for both commuters and tourists. The Vaikom-Ernakulam ferry service will operate morning and evening trips on the 35-km stretch. Also, plans are afoot to ferry tourists on backwater cruises from Marine Drive during off-peak hours.

The agency had recently obtained IRS approval for the drawings of another 14 boats, comprising five single-hull and nine catamaran-type fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) vessels capable of carrying 50 and 100 passengers respectively. Their keel laying too is over.

Solar ferry

Considering the rock-bottom operational cost of India’s first solar ferry operated by the SWTD in the Vaikom-Thavanakadavu sector, the department has placed orders for its sister vessel priced at ₹3.15 crore. “It will be launched by October, and the IRS has approved its drawings. It consumes electric power worth around ₹200, while each diesel-run ferry devours fuel worth ₹8,000 a day,” Mr. Nair said.

The next in line is the introduction of a water taxi each in Ernakulam and Alappuzha by July. They can accommodate 10 passengers and will be available on hourly rent for tourists.

Five high-speed steel ambulance rescue boats that can carry 25 people too are on the anvil. The aim is to provide emergency medical help in remote areas of Ernakulam and Alappuzha. They will be ready for commissioning by March.

Responding to complaints of inadequate boat services from Ernakulam to Mattancherry and Fort Kochi, Mr. Nair said it would shortly be overcome as repair of ferries is being speeded up. The SWTD has built a dry dock in Alappuzha where four vessels can be repaired simultaneously. An nearby slipway too is ready which can cater for another four vessels. Yet another slipway is being built at Kannur, and it will be ready by April.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 12:08:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/swtd-to-launch-24-modern-boats/article22778748.ece

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