Four boats operating in Kochi have been asked to stop service

Four tourist boats operating in Kochi backwater have been directed to stop service for safety reasons.

P.K. Ajayan, the Chief Surveyor of the Ports Department, issued stop memo to these vessels on Thursday after they were found lacking the mandatory certificates on safety aspects.

The vessels didn’t possess the stability test certificates as well as the surveyor’s certificate, which were issued after inspecting the vessels for its seaworthiness.

The vessels need to be checked for stability, one of the key factors which make them safe for navigation. The vessels without stability would easily capsize leading to loss of life. The four vessels that were directed to stop operation were also found wanting the important documents pertain to the number of life jackets on board, fire fighting mechanism related safety aspects. Such vessels are highly vulnerable to accidents, said Mr. Ajayan.

Last month a list of nearly 100 vessels was submitted to the department indicating that the vessels had obtained the mandatory safety clearances. The names of the four vessels were missing in the list too. The mere submission of the list won’t be sufficient for ensuring the passenger safety. The vessels will have to undergo the safety tests, he suggested.

Incidentally, Jalakanyaka, the boat owned and operated by the Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, had taken with it 45 tourists to the bottom of the Thekkady lake in 2009 as it capsized. Questions were also raised about the stability of the vessel which had on board tourists from the neighbouring States as well as foreigners. It was also pointed out that the passengers of the ill-fated vessels were not wearing safety jackets, which contributed to the death toll in one of the biggest tragedies that struck the State.

On any given day, scores of passengers could be seen lavishing the beauty of the Kochi backwaters on board tourist vessels without wearing life jackets. Tourists could be seen enjoying the sun and scenic beauty of the backwaters on the upper decks too sidestepping the safety aspects.

An inquiry with the Munambam office of the Department of Port revealed that 378 vessels including tourist boats, house boats and junkars had registered with it from Thrissur, Idukki and Ernakulam districts. However, no separate list of tourist boats were available at the office, said an official.

Even while directing the boats which flout safety norms to be berthed, the department lacked teeth for implementing its directives.

The officials of the department confessed that they didn’t have any mechanism to enforce the directives regarding the boats. The stop-memos are passed on to the district collectors concerned, Cochin Port trust and the Circle Inspectors of the coastal police stations concerned for enforcement, an official said.

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